First of all, happy birthday Sónar! What started as a small, risky festival taking place at CCCB and at Sala Apolo has now become a massive event with two huge venues, a baby brother focused on technology and innovation (Sónar+D), and some satellite events across the globe (this year, in Reykjavik, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Bogotá and Buenos Aires). So if you want to experience one of the most thrilling, exciting events of the year, visit Barcelona from the 14th to the 16th of June and know how a proper party is thrown.
We couldn’t be more anxious about this year’s edition. Sónar is always an exciting event: for locals, it’s the official start of summer season (who cares about parties on the beach with people dressed in all-white vaporous outfits during the Revetlla de Sant Joan on the 23rd?), and for international visitors, it’s the best excuse to visit the city and have real fun. And, oh my, we will all have. We’ve already been warming up thanks to the exhibition No Flyers No Posters, which traces the festival’s visual identity throughout the years (expect to see ghosts, Maradona, and unconventional families all over).
But it’s the line-up that makes us salivate. In addition to bringing some major figures of the electronic scene who’ve been playing at the festival for some years, like Miss Kittin or Richie Hawtin, the various range of artists is something to congratulate the team for. They have taken into account what’s going on in the local scene and embraced it: Mueveloreina, Rosalía, Nathy Peluso, Alicia Carrera or Steve Lean are some examples of that (the rapper Valtonyc was also set to perform, but unfortunately, he’s had to exile to avoid being imprisoned by the not-so-democratic government of Spain).
Their risky take on more alternative proposals, like the ones of Ólafur Arnalds, Cornelius, Francisco López or Rosa Pistola, also prove that the festival’s more alive than ever. Another particular thing to highlight is the number of collaborations and b2bs: Ben Klock & DJ Nobu, Motor City Drum Ensemble & Jeremy Underground, Miss Kittin & Kim Ann Foxman, Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto or Dabrye & Kadence are some of the ones we can’t wait to see. And, of course, the concerts and DJ sets of LCD Soundsystem, Black Coffee, Bicep or Lanark Artefax are not to be missed. If that’s not enough, here you have our top ten selection.
Do you believe in parallel universes? Because one certainly exists in the minds of Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett, the creators of the acclaimed virtual pop band Gorillaz. Despite only existing in a fictive and animated universe, the band has sold out concerts all over our real world. Fans were thrilled at the sight and sound of their new album, Humanz, which came out last year after a six-year-long hiatus. Come and explore the moody audiovisual world of Gorillaz on Friday night.
At the young age of twenty-four, this Korean/American talent does it all: she spins, produces, sings and is also a visual artist and a fashion designer. She has made quite the name for herself due to her fresh and upbeat style that clearly draws from both her Korean and American heritage. To accompany her electronic music, she always has a microphone in hand, ready to embellish any tune with her sweet and mysterious voice. For her show at Sónar, you can expect nothing less than that, an unparalleled and energetic mix of house, deep house and the best of hip-hop and trap.
Known for his dreamy and downtempo music, Bonobo has produced five albums alongside a collection of singles and remixes under the legendary United Kingdom label Ninja Tune. His unique style started out by what could be defined as his personal interpretation of trip-hop and has developed by taking inspiration from jazz, house and quirky electronic sounds that all come together in a melodic yet surprisingly accessible symphony.
Richie Hawtin – Close
Many have lost themselves to Richie Hawtin’s minimal house music during the previous editions of the festival. This year, he is returning with a very special performance titled Close, where he challenges the fine line between a conventional DJ set and a live performance. Here, he will further explore the relationship between human creativity and technology by installing a large screen that will allow the crowd to experience the intuitive decisions a DJ makes during a set. Next to the visual experience, Richie Hawtin’s Close promises to bring you a few hours of ecstatic dancing on Saturday night.
Under the pseudonym Alva Noto, Carsten Nicolai produces enchantingly minimal and experimental beats. He started out as an architecture student, from which he turned into a visual artist and, as a result, he’s always been interested in the physical qualities of sound. During Sónar, we can expect a new live show that goes by the name of Unieqav, which promises to be a structure of melodic and stripped down sounds accompanied by a dazzling light performance.
This seasoned professional has managed to convince many of her musical talents, which go beyond the boundaries of club or techno. As a composer, she managed to create a minimal and melodic sound that she constantly advances and renews whilst maintaining her signature electronic style. Lovers of downtempo electronica with a hint of jazz and blues will surely enjoy her live set during Sónar, where she will present her latest work, Slo-mo.
DESPACIO James Murphy + 2manydjs
DESPACIO is an exceptional experience focussed on the act of listening rather than aiming the attention to the stage. As a result, the audience becomes the main act, alongside the quality of songs and the sound. This is achieved by a number of elements, such as a circular sound-system, an indoor venue with reduced capacity, but most importantly, the music. First set to play is James Murphy, the leader of the notorious LCD Soundsystem and known for his energetic electronic rock. Followed by the Dewaele brothers, also known as Soulwax, also known as 2manydjs. The duo will play their favourite vinyl from their vast collection, ranging from progressive rock to funky disco tunes to banging German techno; tunes that will surely get you dancing.
Over the past years, Hamburg-based DJ Helena Hauff has become one of the world’s most in-demand DJs, and for obvious reasons. Her sets are uncompromising, stripped down and dark. Her music tends towards a blend of industrial techno, acid and darkwave that will give you the feeling you are dancing in a dark and dirty underground club rather than a festival venue. She is closing Friday night at Sónar, and we expect nothing less than two hours of consecutively strong and razor sharp set.
Whoever says electronic music can’t be political has not met Sophie. The songwriter, DJ and producer pushes the traditional expectations of the music industry to create her own kind of sound that can best be described as bubblegum club music. Additionally to challenging the ideas of pop culture, her songs are incredibly catchy. Her performance at the festival promises to be a genre-bending audiovisual experience that shouldn't be missed.
Although he is mostly known from his work for Radiohead, the talent of musician and composer Thom Yorke goes much further than that. He has produced two solo albums expressing his emotional and experimental sound that still maintains an air of accessibility. If by any chance you have not heard of him, the names of his collaborators surely should ring a bell. He created an EP alongside Burial and Four Tet, collaborated with Björk and had his voice featured on tracks of Modeselektor and Unkle. His live shows are increasingly rare so we recommend seeing him when you have the chance.
Sónar Barcelona will take place from June 14 to 16 in two venues: Fira de Montjuïc and Fira de L’Hospitalet. For more information, visit the festival’s website.