Fifteen years ago, an investigation into sonic experimentation and innovation began in the urban creative spinning wheel, Barcelona. Over the years, the International Music Festival of Advanced Music and Multimedia Art has grown exponentially, this year racking up a total attendance of 81,522 festivalgoers in three days, and an all-star eclectic lineup with performers as diverse as Goldfrapp, Ben Watt, Buraka Som Sistema and Ricardo Villalobos. A decade and a half later, is this highly acclaimed global music gathering still pushing boundaries and discovering high-voltage sound jolts?
Sonar's official program, which ran June 19-21, focused on the defocused mish-mash musical gazpacho now coined “music bastardism” — a crisscrossing of musical genres and roots that adheres to one simple premise: anything goes. To exemplify this to its core was the duo Soulwax's mesmerizing performance. Popularizing the bootleg craze a few years ago, the brothers David and Stephen Dewaele presented a live bass-kicking drumming spectacular that engaged and surprised a sea of heads at Sonar's official nightspot.
Also in the business of demonstrating maximum innovation, the Minus mad scientists presented Contakt at Sonar by Night: A six-hour purely improvised jam session, rid of schedules, slots, even chosen artists. According to Richie Hawtin, Contakt “allows all of the Minus artists to seamlessly mix together, blurring the lines of when one DJ or live act begins or ends.” Led by Hawtin himself, Sonar's Contakt session featured Marc Houle, Gaiser, Magda, Troy Pierce and Heartthrob. Injecting a fresh emotional layer of drama and humor into the mix, Heartthrob has emerged as Minus' golden child, exuberating true brilliance in his performance, which is also mirrored in the release of his first album, the sensational Dear Painter, Paint Me.
As for the off-Sonar fanfare, intimate industry events of previous years were outnumbered by a few massive unofficial raves such as the Raum Open Air, where gargantuan space met headliners such as Loco Dice, M.A.N.D.Y and Luciano, and the Liquid Festival Meet Minicomio party with Paul Ritch, Guy Gerber, Tiefschwarz and DJ T, among others, manning the decks.
For the industry fellows perusing the festival for some TLC, the Berlin-based record label Mobilee was the sole provider, teaming up with Beatport to create a coveted bird's nest perched at the rooftop of the Hotel Silken Diagonal. Hosting Thursday and Friday's day parties there and Saturday's last dance at a beach location, Mobilee's exquisite mix of beats, networking and talented productions from the likes of Anja Schneider, Sebo K and Catz n' Dogz encapsulated the mantra of this year's Sonar.