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Preview: Sonár Barcelona 2016
Karl Smith , June 10th, 2016 08:15

From punishing DJ sets to politically righteous electronics, for those heading out to Sonár Barcelona this weekend, Karl Smith plates up a tasting menu of some of the choices ingredients the Catalan festival has to offer

Looking at the planner for this year’s Sonár Barcelona, the most appropriate response seems to be to borrow and slightly modify a phrase from a very different branch of popular culture: “Music. Bloody hell.” If Primavera Sound has the Catalan capital covered in terms of more traditional – and arguably less challenging – festival fare (i.e. “guitar music”), Sonár has a well-earned monopoly on the electronic. And, within that, all bases are covered: whether its handwringing or wringing the sweat from what used to be your t-shirt.

It’s also a question of give and take when it comes to Sonár. That is to say, it’s absolutely possible to do the bare minimum – to end your evenings at midnight or thereabouts, or even stick to the day program – and still come away from the festival feeling satisfied. But, of course, wherever satisfaction is found in this life you can be sure that greed, gluttony and excess lurk not far behind; ready to present themselves as viable alternatives.

So, with that in mind and with Sonár Barcelona clearly in view, we’ve put together a modest and eclectic tasting menu from the festival’s comprehensive, all-night buffet: graze; have a pleasantly filling meal; eat until your stomach goes the way of that guy in the first Alien film’s chest cavity. It’s on you, buddy.

Anohni: Hopelessness

For thousands of years — since at least third century BC China, since you were asking — the paradox of the unstoppable force and immovable object has lingered in the minds of both philosophers and scientists: if an object is immovable it can't be moved; if an object is unstoppable it can't be stopped, and the result of their convergence is technically impossible. What then, when two producers — themselves distinctly more than producers: composers, artists, musicians of their own standing — whose pervasion of popular culture seems unstoppable at this current moment, are drawn into contact with an artist so unique in her talents and with such staunchly-held beliefs on so many issues that she seems herself immovable?


Last year, at Iceland Airwaves, Skepta delivered a performance that seemed to actually rupture some fundamental element of Reykjavík Art Museum: it was a set so forceful and so self-assured that it punctured the space itself, leaving it to drip water from every surface area except the floor. (Maybe even the floor. What does gravity have to do with music anyway?) For some small amount of time it was the hottest, wettest place in a country populated by geothermally-heated pools.

The skits that bookend so many of the tracks on Konnichiwa, stemming the flow of the album, confirm Skepta on Record and Skepta on Stage – if not quite as polar opposites – as wholly different beasts: the former polished, delivered with the kind of skill you’d expect from someone who has so honed their craft, and the latter held together and pushed unceasingly forward by an unstoppable energetic force.

Oneohtrix Point Never

If (and it’s a notably large if) there’s a problem with Daniel Lopatin’s OPN project it’s that it leaves you unsure exactly what to do with your arms, veering as it does between moments of equally intense intellectual chinscratchery and hands-in-the-air “Christ alive, did you hear that?!” moments of pounding brilliance. It's electronic music in the broadest sense of the term, wilfully refusing to choose between outrageous pop hooks and bone-shattering grindcore drills. Garden Of Delete, OPN's most recent album, and indeed the Oneohtrix Point Never project as a whole, sone that could so easily not have worked

Ben UFO b2b Helena Hauff

Okay, so they remade Clash Of The Titans and it was terrible and now the analogy is kind of redundant unless what you're looking to describe is the inexplicable feeling one gets when watching Sam Worthington "act". But, nonetheless, Ben UFO and Helena Hauff are two people absolutely at the top/on top/standing tall on a heap of their game right now.

In fact, what Resident Advisor have put together here is more like the fight scene in Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives: disparate styles inflicting wall-to-wall punishment late at night, with movements that are as close to balletic as a beatdown is ever going to get.

Gazelle Twin: Kingdom Come

The good news is that there's always bad news in life. If Barcelona's sun, beach adjacency, and general feeling of vibrancy have all become too much to bear, why not take a moment and allow the thematic bruto-realism of J.G. Ballard to right the dial of your emotional barometer? While Elizabeth Bernholz isn't performing as part of Kingdom Come, her artistic fingerprints — her unmistakable ability to channel ideas and themes into music both beautiful and punishing — are all over the project.

At base, it's a performance for two vocalist, orchestrated by Bernholz, and with visuals provided by Chris Turner and Tash Tung. And, if that's not enough, it's also 40 minutes of "feralness, displacement and the uncanny in the contemporary British, urban landscape" designed to exert increasingly powerful physical stress on the performers themselves.

Five More Artists and Performance Not to Miss at Sonár 2016

King Midas Sound + Fennesz

Yung Lean


The Black Madonna