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Sonar Festival 2013: A Quietus Preview
The Quietus , June 10th, 2013 08:56

With the Quietus preparing to jet across to Barcelona later this week for this year's edition of Sonar Festival, Rory Gibb and Luke Turner take you through some of our most anticipated acts

The Quietus are currently packing suncream and linen suits ready to jet across to Barcelona for this year's Sonar Festival, which takes place from this Thursday 13th June until Sunday 16th. As ever with Sonar, it feels less like simply a festival and closer to a full-scale takeover by the international dance music community - a raft of acts, large and small, gracing the official festival's day and nighttime stages, bolstered by scores of additional independent Off-Sonar parties in venues scattered across the city bringing along pretty much everyone else in electronic music for the ride.

Obviously chief among those are headliners Pet Shop Boys and German veterans Kraftwerk, without the latter of whom about 99% of the other music on the bill probably wouldn't exist (or at least not in quite the same form), and whose announcement in the first wave of acts prompted us to immediately book our flights. Elsewhere there's plenty of great stuff on the bill, so in advance of the week we've taken a scan through the bill and picked out some Quietus favourites, from tunnelvision techno to stern, Germanic booty bass, dub vibrations to Second Life grime.

They're scattered across both Sonar By Day - which tQ's Angus Finlayson last year described as "a largely blissful experience... a place to gently lose your shit under cloudless azure skies" and the entirely more colossal and cavernous Sonar By Night ("less like a stadium, more like the biggest warehouse rave you’ve ever been to: just endless dark floor, dotted with occasional ceiling-hung speakers and bookended with bars, reverberating to the cavernous thud of a mnml kickdrum"). We've also selected a handful of particularly intriguing Off-Sonar events to round off. Read on...

Thursday 13th June, SonarDome, 14:30

The notion of Cassegrain at such an early time of the day is more than a little disconcerting, but they'll certainly add lashings of nocturnal energy to your Thursday afternoon. The Prologue signed German/Greek duo trade in dubby, tunnelvision techno that burrows deeper and deeper wormholes into your sense of time as it goes on, and come strongly recommended to fans of the likes of Sandwell District, Donato Dozzy and the Modern Love set. It might well take a while to float back to the surface after these two are done with you. RG

Diamond Version
Friday 14th June, 19:30, SonarHall

Carsten 'Alva Noto' Nicolai and Olaf 'Byetone' Bender have long operated along the borderline where art gallery meets dancefloor, with their label Raster Noton and their solo live performances splitting the priority equally between the sonic, visual and conceptual aspects of their work. While their solo material has still been happy delivering the arty coup de grace to club crowds, their recent collaborative hook-up as Diamond Version has cast their dancefloor intentions in sharp relief: their EP series, released through Mute, has found them tackling chrome-plated, precision tooled techno, electro and even booty bass, all given a twist of endearingly daft humour. Expect the same from this live show, albeit delivered at sternum-loosening volume. All together now: "DO YOU SUFFER FROM PAIN?" RG

Adrian Sherwood & Pinch
Friday 14th June, SonarHall, 21:00

An intriguing connect, this: two generations of UK studio pioneers locking into a sonic dialogue. With his On U Sound label and legendary skills behind the mixing desk, Adrian Sherwood has long been considered one of Britain's most pioneering dub artists, with the influence of his work from across the last 20 years now woven deep into the fabric of UK electronic, dub and dance music. Bristol-based Pinch seems something of a kindred spirit. He's credited with introducing dubstep to the South West, where it immediately began to thrive and develop along its own independent pathways, and his 2007 Underwater Dancehall album - featuring separate discs of instrumental and vocal versions, in a dub tradition - is one of the classics of the genre. Pinch and Sherwood hooked up after initially collaborating on a reworking of the latter's 2012 album Survival & Resistance, and since have continued to work on new material, including a thoroughly enjoyable, fairly self-explanatorily titled upcoming 12" entitled Give Me Weed. Expect low-end, and lots of it. RG

Richie Hawtin presents ENTER
Friday 14th June, SonarPub

Two decades after the first Plastikman LP Sheet One, Richie Hawtin might be forgiven for wanting a few early nights, or at least trotting around the world cashing in his reputation for massive cheques. Instead, Hawtin sets sail across the Med from Ibiza with his ENTER. night, which, Hawtin says, was inspired by Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut and Gaspar Noe's Enter The Void, taking as its four sacred pillars music, technology, experience and sake, the Japanese wine on which the DJ is an expert. Says Hawtin, "In our scene we are all tied together first by the musical experiences we have shared over the years. Many of those experiences have been fuelled by alcohol, other stimulants or just the pure excitement of being involved in this often crazy and vibrant scene. Technology has always enveloped those experiences, from the way we perform, to the way we stay in contact and now, even in the way we consume music. In my mind, the combination of these three things, Music, Sake and Technology can only lead to one outcome, an incredible night out that in first and foremost fun, exciting and hopefully even inspiring! Isn’t that the type of experience that we’re all looking for?" Quite right. Joining Hawtin at Sonar will be Paco Osuna and Maya Jane Coles, the British DJ with whom he shares a love of angular hair. LT

Friday 14th June, SonarClub, 22:00

Playing a set just before Kraftwerk turn up with their matching outfits, hi-tech 3D projections and music that still sounds beamed in from the future must be a rather daunting prospect. But that's the challenge that Raime face on Friday night. What sort of a set they choose to play will be intriguing - while their brilliant LP for Blackest Ever Black, Quarter Turns Over A Living Line is all shrouded, ominous ambience, this has been re-tuned for the dancefloor on a series of brilliant versions by Birmingham techno lord Regis. Will they reflect that on Friday? Or will they go for a set that, as Maya Kalev witnessed recently, derives its power from minimalism and slow pace? Whichever, the contrast between these masters of the gloaming and Kraftwerk's technicolor glory is set to be a fascinating one. LT

Friday 14th June, SonarClub, 22:45

From MOMA to Tate Modern and the Sydney Opera House, most of Kraftwerk's recent series of performances have been in the high cathedrals of the artistic intelligensia. Sonar, then, offers a handy reminder that their futurist electronic pop is the cornerstone of most, if not all, dance music today - we've all surely heard by now the stories of their early trip to Detroit, where audiences were primarily made up of African Americans who'd go on to be there at the birth of techno. You couldn't really get a more perfect slot, either: 22:45 - 00:45, as Friday night becomes Saturday morning, 3D glasses provided for eyes on stalks. LT

Friday 14th June, 03:15, SonarLab

Berlin-based producer TJ Hertz, aka Objekt, has already gained quite the reputation, despite having released only a handful of tracks to date. That's partly down to his undeniable knack for crafting unerringly precise slabs of technoid weirdness that circumvent many accepted club music conventions while still going off like bombs on the dancefloor (consider last year's 'Cactus', released through Hessle Audio, which I described at the time thus: "it's as if Hertz is force-feeding Shed's skinny frame such a rich diet of early Wiley instrumentals that it can no longer contain the pressure of its own innards; halfway through it simply bursts"). It's also because he's a formidable DJ, drawing techno, electro and UK-leaning, grimey bass styles into his orbit with seamless grace and at fearsome velocity. For a taste of what to expect, listen to this recent mix he recorded for URB.RG

Friday 14th June, SonarClub 04:15

Somewhat depressingly, as soon as Skrillex was confirmed to play Sonar the internet lit up with grouching, with negative comments on the festival Facebook page and a petition to have him removed from the bill. Thankfully, that has only managed to collect 36 signatures, and the Quietus is not ashamed to state that Skrillex is one of our must-see acts at Sonar 2013. Why? As John Calvert so brilliantly pointed out here, Skrillex live is a 100% shock-and-awe operation - to resist the opportunity to witness such a spectacle would surely be foolish. LT

Friday 14th June, SonarLab, 04:15

Karenn - the all-hardware, all-kicking-all-screaming, all-collapsing-new-building sturm-und-drang techno project of London-based miscreants Blawan and Pariah - have been creating quite the bit of havoc on dancefloors lately. Rather than taking a 'dark and noisy for the sake of dark and noisy' approach, their sound - fast, hard, distorted, acidic but with an eerie, subtle sense for melody - instead feels precision designed to jack directly into the bodies of dancers, circumventing the brain and hitting deep into the motor centres with surgical accuracy. Their early evening set at Field Day knocked the wind out of (and some energy back into) a crowd lulled by an afternoon's worth of sun and booze, so one suspects their caustic OOOOF will have an even more seismic effect at 4am in Barcelona. RG

Fatima Al Qadiri
Saturday 15th June, SonarVillage, 16:30

Brooklyn resident Fatima Al Qadiri draws a whole variety of different sounds into her orbit - encoded within her crystalline dance tracks are elements of footwork, grime, ghetto house and G-funk. Last year's Desert Strike EP was, ahem, a striking listen: "its tracks draw much of their energy from their essentially contradictory nature," I said when I reviewed it last year, "placing signifiers of ghetto-ness - cocked firearms, bounding 808 toms, lurking sub-bass - within eerily translucent background ambience that suggests yoga music for an ashram in Second Life." Elsewhere her Genre Specific Xperience EP contained a series of near perfect studies of other styles, but put through the filter of her own approach. Her DJ sets are as wide ranging as her influences, and tend to be raucous, party-starting affairs. RG

Felix Kubin & James Pants
Saturday 15th June, SonarDome, 18:30

I'm not sure what on earth this'll sound like, but it'll doubtless be worth witnessing. Long-running German outsider pop artist/musician Felix Kubin has been responsible for some of my favourite live shows of recent years, accompanying his delightfully subversive synth pop with suitably bizarre videos, on-stage quips and performance. This show finds him collaborating with Stateside producer James Pants, signed to Stone's Throw, whose music - drawing from boogie, electro and hip-hop - feels rather different to Kubin's on the surface of things. Still, the duo share a kindred surreal and playful approach, and one imagines that the upcoming 7" from the due entitled Tanzen Blitzen will occupy a fairly wild middle ground. Hopefully this show will find Kubin reaching for his cardboard lightning bolt props, too. RG

Dinos Chapman
Saturday 15th June, SonarComplex, 19:00

First rising to prominence as a visual artist in the 90s alongside his brother Jake, Dinos Chapman is renowned for a caustic sense of humour, and the bleakly funny work that it gives rise to. This year he released his debut album, Luftbobler, a series of peculiar, sickly but intriguing electronic sketches, put together over years of basement tinkering, that draw inspiration from his musical heroes. "The heavily effected peals of brass on 'He Has No Method' and the splintered voices of 'Pizza Man' are pure Throbbing Gristle, the spiraling beats of 'So It Goes' and 'Sputnik' rifs on Tri Repetae-era Autechre, the bouncing-ball piano figures that crop up occasionally are reminiscent of Richard D. James' music," I said in a review of the album. This show will find him presenting the album's music in an audiovisual manner, which will no doubt prove equal parts disturbing and amusing. RG

Vatican Shadow
Saturday 15th June, SonarHall, 21:00

Ah, Barcelona, where the sun shines on beaches full of nubile Catalan youth, where the pace of life is unhurried, warm and friendly, where Gaudi's archi... what better place could there be to get shouted at for an hour or so by Dominick Fernow, who arrives at Sonar in his Vatican Shadow guise. Dressed in American military fatigues, Fernow's live set is a furious, at times unsettling exploration and subversion of that inchoate rage and violence of American foreign policy and military misadventure. While on his (many, wallet-busting) releases the Vatican Shadow's music comprises of cold, deathly electronica, live he ratchets up the rhythmical elements into a kind of Humvee techno, compelling and intense. LT

Off Sonar
Various venues, The Whole Week

It seems churlish to deliver a Sonar round-up without at least taking a bit of a scan through some of the additional parties taking place in the city across the week. Where the festival proper takes a fairly broad spectrum overview of current electronic music, many of the off Sonar events hone in more specifically on house and techno. Thursday night features a couple of thoroughly impressive ones: the Hessle Audio crew of Pangaea, Ben UFO and Pearson Sound all night at BeCool (sold out in advance but there's 100 tickets on the door), or the UK and German techno overlord pairing of Regis and Moritz von Oswald at the Tresor showcase.

Friday brings Perlon label heads and associates Zip, Ricardo Villalobos, Baby Ford and Thomas Melchior with the latter two teamed up as Soul Capsule (details here - but to be honest, we'll be on a Kraftwerk/Karenn/Skrillex tip). But it's Saturday's RA party that's the most intriguing of the bunch: Norwegian cosmic disco head Prins Thomas and Italy's headfuck techno maestro Donato Dozzy playing back to back for the entire night, triangulating presumably some as-yet-unimaginable middle ground between their two approaches. The line-up's rounded off by Vakula and Madteo; more information here. RG