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Blog Club Review

Data Transmission Does Sonar Barcelona

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Over at SonarPub, Maya Jane Coles launches into a straight up techno set with such sleek style I completely forget about the fact that I’m missing Objekt. Paco Osuna follows up with flat techno that pails in comparison so I move out to Karenn, who are back at SonarLab. Although the venue is huge, moving between the four parallel rooms isn’t too time-consuming and I arrive at SonarLab to witness Blawan and Pariah’s joint-venture pounding out, as ever, industrial, analogue techno. With its full-on, rich acid lines, it creates a completely captivating experience for a thinning crowd. As Derrick May steps up I head back to the huge room with the bumper cars and the tiny rig, where Matthias Zimmerman is weaving his own colourful, more playful take on techno at the Sound Pellegrino showcase.

Saturday afternoon at Sonar by Day sees Mr Beatnick play an extraordinarily inspired set rolling through tracks like Benga’s Night, Joy Orbison’s Ellipsis and Kingdom’s Stalker Ha, to tracks like Jeremih’s F**k You All The Time, then to Rashad’s sublime Ghetto lullaby Rollin’. With genres flying around like mad and it was one of the most exhilarating sets of the festival. After a quick trip downstairs to the dark SonarHall, where Darkstar were playing what sounded like drone, I trot back upstairs to SonarDome to catch Krystal Klear sweating it out to soulful funk, disco, and house. He managed to mix in squeaky clean classics like Madonna’s Get Into The Groove and Cheryl Lynn’s Be Real with more raw, R&B backbone tracks like Patrice Rushen’s Forget Me Nots and Terry Housemaster Baldwin’s early acid classic Don’t Lead Me, which grounded the whole thing. 

After sunset I head back to BeCool, where, as part of OFF-Week, Resident Advisor are putting on one of their VS nights – a series of parties which sees two complimentary DJs go back to back in the name of artistic experimentation. Once I feel like I’ve had my fair share of fun with the revolving dancefloor, I leave Donato Dozzy and Prins Thomas spinning smooth and deep sounds and head back to the vastness of Sonar by Night. Paul Kalkbrenner is putting on an ecstatic audio-visual display in SonarClub while Maceo Plex plays out a typically lush set of warm house next door in the open air. Up close is the only place to be – too far back and the sound gets completely lost. The highlight of the whole of Sonar by Night, and perhaps the closest to any moment of greatness at the festival, was Laurent Garnier’s sunrise set at the in-aptly named SonarPub. Leaving the venue at the end of the end was yet another surreal moment: the now abandoned expanse of the venue was a mere shell, even more enormous now than in the dark.

The most memorable sets of the week, though, were yet to come. The Secretsundaze OFF party is essential for anyone who’s still going by Sunday, and this year the line-up was nothing short of brilliant: Chez Damier, Amir Alexander, Anthony Naples, Delano Smith and San Soda. The open-air daytime venue, La Carpa and Picnic, caught the evening sun and where Sonar by Night had lacked any consistency, or much of a character at all, Secretsundaze had it all. Despite the many complaints about ridiculous drinks prices being entirely justified, the music was on-point. Amir Alexander’s unique blend of raw Detroit sounds and San Soda’s sharp edged house were the highlights of the week.

The overall enormity of Sonar – or, of the aircraft hangar at least – completely swamped anything I ever expected. The sheer expanse of music (someone said to me ‘it all sounds the same’, but it definitely doesn’t) is nothing short of overwhelming. Sonar annihilates a small world of compact nightclubs and controllable aesthetics in one fell swoop. There is just so much: despite Derrick May’s conviction earlier in the week that this is the tragedy of our age, what Sonar makes clear is that electronic music can be so many things to so many people, and it makes your singular idea of what dance music is all about completely dwarfed – and irrelevant. When your world is suddenly made to seem so small and insignificant, what you get is the creeping onset of existential crisis mixed with awe, which can only lead to a more open mind.

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