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PREVIEW: Sónar
The Quietus , June 17th, 2015 11:13

Before the Barcelona three-dayer begins tomorrow, Christian Eede and Laurie Tuffrey pick out six highlights from this year's line-up

Nazoranai (Stephen O'Malley, Oren Ambarchi & Keiji Haino)
Thursday 18 June, 18.00, SonarDôme

As the Quietus' Joseph Burnett wrote in his review of The Most Painful Time Happens Only Once Has It Arrived Already..? (point one about this band: they do a very fine line in titling; see also their finest concision-mocker: 'Not To Leave Everything To The Light Outside Of You But To Be Aware Of The Prayer "What Do I Want To Do?" That Exists Inside You, And Let That Go Out Of You As A Light, Or Things Might Get Worse, No?'), Nazoranai are a power trio. Not so much chugging riffs and propulsive drumming here, though: Stephen O'Malley (also on the Sónar line-up as part of KTL) brings the chasmic heaviness of Sunn O))) (almost in negative space - rather than floating his wall-of-guitar dreadnought, here he's supplying punctuating depth charges on bass) leavened with the freeform work of esteemed Japanese experimentalist Keiji Haino and the formidable Oren Ambarchi, serial collaborator and, here, percussionist.

As evidenced by their self-titled debut from 2012 and The Most Painful Time…, a live recording made in Birmingham in 2013 and released last year, expect caustic noise and intensity through improvisation. The dark-hued counterbalance to the searing Spanish sunshine. Laurie Tuffrey

Arca & Jesse Kanda
Thursday 18 June, 18.30, SonarHall

Arriving late last year, Arca's debut album Xen fell somewhat under the radar among the usual end-of-year ratings and plaudits, but it was an album that realised the beautifully odd and complex beat constructions and intricate melodies that had previously formed his &&&& mixtape as well as releases for UNO and production work for FKA twigs and Kanye West. Since its release, Alejandro Ghersi has of course contributed to Björk's Vulnicura, perhaps her most personal album to date. Listening through Xen, one might expect a fairly restricted, restrained live show from Arca and his longtime visual collaborator Jesse Kanda. Their joint shows are actually a far different prospect in reality, with Kanda recreating much of the artwork that circulated around the album's release - some of it body-mapped in real-time to Ghersi's movements - while Ghersi himself is prone to embracing the MC mentality of vogue queens, proving just last Friday at London's St John-at-Hackney church how capable he is of translating Xen into a live setting while also having fun with this gloriously sinuous music. While I can't say for sure whether his Sónar By Day set will deliver the same level of frenzy, it's certainly worth watching to find out. Christian Eede

Holly Herndon
Friday 19 June, 14.15, Stage+D (talk) & Saturday 20 June, 19.00, SonarComplex (performance)

There's been no shortage of praise-singing for Holly Herndon on these pages, but we really can't incite you to see the San Francisco-based composer enough. Her recently-released second album Platform was a pop music trawl through internet culture in 2015 forged by a hive mind of multi-disciplinary artists and thinkers that shifted from the coursing torrent of 'Interference', 'An Exit's coruscant songcraft and ASMR-based social comment on 'Lonely At The Top'. Rather than straight-up performances of her tracks, Herndon's live set pivots on a strong visual and interactive element facilitated by her collaborator Mat Dryhurst. Last year, he tripped through the profiles of those attending the gigs' Facebook events and unleashed a head-spinning flock of digitised pigeons, whereas more recent shows have seen a phone number projected for the audience to text questions to, with Herndon responding onstage. The day before her set, she'll be taking part in an onstage interview entitled 'Make your own rules' and it comes as no surprise to find that the maker of such thought-provoking music is an engaging and inspiring speaker. Laurie Tuffrey

Vessel
Friday 19 June, 16.00, SonarHall

Vessel's second album Punish, Honey saw Seb Gainsborough reject the relatively traditional hardware set-up of his debut album, opting instead to start from scratch, assembling a number of instruments himself by hand. The results are at times punishing and physical throughout, with enough confidence to dish out a track as good as 'Red Sex' just two minutes in. Gainsborough's live shows are also often backed by an engrossing, attention-grabbing display of visuals, the man at the centre of it all throwing himself into the music. This may be a show that would work much better as part of Sónar's night programme, but it still promises to make for one of the sweatiest workouts on offer at this year's festival. Music to lose yourself to, no matter the time of day. Christian Eede

Klara Lewis
Friday 19 June, 16.15, SonarComplex

Part of the Editions Mego showcase, alongside Russell Haswell, KTL, Voices From The Lake and LCC, Klara Lewis' Friday afternoon set may well be the necessary complement to much of Sónar By Night's roof-raising. "As I see it my music is about collecting sounds from different contexts and creating a new place," said Lewis in our interview last year, and this sense of immersion in something self-contained is immediate when listening to Lewis' electronic constructions. Taking field recordings and deconstructing and skewing them out of familiarity, the microscopic detail and tonal fluctuations of Ett, her debut full-length released last year, are a joy to hear through headphones. That's not to say that it doesn't translate into the live environment; at a gig supporting Nik Void in November, Lewis made the most of the low-end that lingers in the recesses of the album and converted it into consummately basement-quaking rumbles. Laurie Tuffrey

Evian Christ
Saturday 20 June, 18.45, SonarHall

Another of Vessel's Tri Angle cohorts, Evian Christ follows last year's DJ set as part of Sónar's night programme with a chance to catch his live show this year, fresh from signing to Warp. Expect plenty of smoke and more encapsulating visuals backing Leary's silhouette as he runs through his brand of abrasive, hip-hop-inflected beats, backed by a lighting system and projections devised alongside lighting designer Emmanuel Biard, with whom Koreless will also be presenting a show at this year's festival. Leary's DJ sets have made for some of this writer's most refreshing, fun experiences in clubs and at festivals over the last couple of years. A combination of that and the live show experience created alongside Biard should serve up something to take Leary's musical punch to even dizzier heights, and who knows, maybe he'll even tap into the sound and spirit of the hallowed Trance Parties. Christian Eede

Sónar runs from June 18-20 in Barcelona, Spain; head to the festival's website for full details and tickets

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