When Sónar began as an experimental electronic music festival back in 1994, few people could have imagined the impact this project would have. Born in Barcelona, Sónar now organise festivals and events throughout the year, and all over the world. All eyes are on the annual Barcelona event, which takes place from the 16th-18th June this year.
A spectacular line-up brings together the most important names in the music industry, as well as introducing cutting edge acts and artists that are about to break like waves on the shore of contemporary culture. There is always a careful balance between new acts and established headliners – many of whom use the occasion as a privileged showcase for new live sets, or for unveiling multi-media collaborations that use the latest advances in video, graphics and lights to create a sensory journey that goes beyond a regular music festival experience.
Electronic music has always gone hand in hand with technology, from new equipment for creating and recording digital works, to the digital platforms used for its diffusion. Computers, mobile phones and applications are opening us up to new realms of creativity at an ever accelerating rate. It’s no coincidence that many of the artists taking part in the Sónar festival have talents that stretch beyond the music itself.
Sonar +D: A creative laboratory
Creativity, technology and business are the foundation of the parallel events that weave into the festival under the banner of Sónar+D. A packed schedule of interactive workshops, digital innovations and exposés takes place alongside the rest of the Sónar day events. The inaugural conference is presented by talented producer and multidisciplinary artist Brian Eno, and is one of several interventions that bring social innovation and activism under the spotlight.
A Laboratory area includes the MarketLab for related start-ups to pitch and network with international entrepreneurs. Live Performances presents installations, tech shows and new virtual reality narratives in the Realities +D section. Fascinating insights into the process of making their music will be offered by prestigious artists such as Jean-Michel Jarre, Richie Hawtin and Kode9. On the tech front, Microsoft Research representative Kate Crawford speaks of Big Data and its social and cultural impact.
As the disciplines of art and science continue to expand their boundaries, an ever increasing realm of cross-investigation and experimentation is being explored. This is exemplified by the spectacular “Earthworks” project, a collaboration between UK artists Semiconductor and geologists at the University of Barcelona.
Sónar by Day: Advanced music showcases
An inspiring cartel brings together top talent from around the globe in open air spaces such as the Sónar Village where the crowd can enjoy music in the sunshine, and darkened rooms which create a rich ambience of visual effects and video.
Some of the highlights include New York producer Evan Sutton as Astrolith (Sónar Dome, Sat), blending hip-hop and techno in a frenetic fusion of forward sound. Red Bull Music Academy are on board for another year. Expect high energy electro house from the likes of Club Cheval (Sónar Dome, Sat.)
Tom Howie and Jimmy Vallance go by the name of Bob Moses. The Canadian duo’s debut album “Days Gone By” was released last September, and their fusion of synth pop, rhythm and vocals has been compared to Hot Chip and James Blake (Sónar Village Thurs). The “off road jazz combo” Badbadnotgood break out of their core hip-hop sound with blasts of post-punk flavoured with funk, African beats and dance music (Sonar Village, Sat).
Cyclo showcases digital art and music by Japan’s Ryoji Ikeda and Germany’s Carsten Nicolai in a unique performance that visualises sound through high-tech technological sensory shows which impact retinas and eardrums. Repetitive algorithmic techno is mixed with powerful visual interpretations of their sound. (Sónar Complex, Sat)
Sonar by Night: The future is now
The spirit of an old school warehouse rave combines with the most high tech sound and light equipment in this unique venue.
A regular on the Barcelona circuit, Angel Molina celebrates a stellar 25 year career behind the decks by taking charge of Sónar Club. He will be closing his set on a high that introduces special guest Jean-Michel Jarre. Also on Friday night, Kode9 from South London serves up a fusion of jngle, dubstep, UK funky, garage, grime in his DJ set.
Booka Shade presents an eagerly awaited new show at the Sónar Club, and so does the ubiquitous Brighton producer Fatboy Slim (Sat night). The man behind hits such as Praise You, Funk Soul Brother and Right Here Right Now certainly know how to move a dancefloor.
Another new show comes from Boys Noize (Sat night, Sónar Pub); expect a hard ride through the cyperpunk themes of contemporary culture: surveillance, technology and artificial intelligence, and the human urban struggle.
Exciting newcomer Flume from Australia has already made a name with hits like “Drop The Game” (with Chet Faker) and “Space Cadet” (with guest vocals by Ghostface and Autre Ne Veut) and an appealing soul, pop and garage sound.
This year’s Sónar festival looks set to be an unparalleled experience, so do yourself a favour and book those tickets before they sell out!