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Archive for July, 2011

Bleep does Sonar 2011

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In anticipation of 2011’s festival, we partnered up with Sonar to offer a series of exclusive MP3s give-aways from some of our favourite artists playing at the festival. We hope that you didn’t miss out on them but if you did, be sure to be quicker on the mark next year.

Bleep x Sonar 2011 by Bleep.com

Anyway, the annual pilgrimage to Barcelona now over, recuperation almost achieved, we look back over those magical few days that was Sonar 2011…

Since its inception in 1994, Sonar has been steadily amassing a considerable fan base of clued-up music aficionados attracted like buzzing flies to Sonar’s illuminated orb of inspired programming and gentle summer vibes, set to the backdrop of one of the most exciting cities we know; Barcelona. Sonar’s beauty lies in its contrast of venues and schedules. Sonar by day, a spirited affair that loosely unwinds as the hours go by, is a visual and sonic delight. The minimalist lines of the MACBA contemporary art gallery perfectly frame Barcelona’s deep blue skies and blazing sun. Sonar by night, on the other hand, is a whole other beast. Set in the cavernous space of what can only be described as an aeroplane hanger, the sheer scale and enormity of the whole affair is undoubtedly the most impressive attraction.

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However, although Sonar is the real draw here, the plethora of off-Sonar parties and events provide endless distractions and temptations for the music hungry festival goer. This year’s proceedings kicked off with the annual Red Bull Music Academy BBQ delightfully located on the terrace of the Barcelona yachting club with a port-side backdrop. Free drinks, meat fresh off the grill, surprise appearances from Jackmaster, Benji B and Space Dimension Controller, and the prospect of four incredible days ahead, made for content industry peeps who on any other occasion would surely be a whole lot harder to please. Less chin stroking, more getting down to classics such as Midnight Star’s ‘Midas Touch’ and Prince’s ‘Erotic City’.

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Nicolas Jaar @ Sonar Hall / 16.06.11

A gloriously sunny Thursday afternoon was the perfect way to shake off the night before with outdoor sun-soaked sets from the likes of Floating Points, Little Dragon, Toro Y Moi and one of the most hotly anticipated performances of the weekend from Nicolas Jaar. Playing to a packed out crowd, he did not disappoint with a jazz-infused journey through his latest album offering. Off-Sonar, poolside preening came thanks to Hotflush and Aus Music and their hotel-rooftop soiree which saw respective label bosses, Scuba and Will Saul sound-tracking gentle poolside toe-tipping alongside Appleblim, Sigha, Midland and Deadbeat.

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As day blurred in to night, Thursday night traditions were re-lived at Barcelona super club, Razzmatazz. The intimate confines of the Lolita room played host to London’s Hessle Audio and Hemlock Recordings who filled the club with a mass of punishing bass lines and futurist rhythms from the likes of Ben UFO, Untold, Pangaea, Pearson Sound, Girl Unit and surprise guest Jackmaster.

Friday’s Sonar by Day was prime example of Sonar’s exemplary programming, showcasing one of the most consistent and exciting new labels of recent times, Tri Angle. oOoOO and Bleep favourite Holy Other took us on a tour of their haunting downbeat rhythms, but it was How To Dress Well (aka Tom Krell) who stole the show. Performing on stage without a band, laptop, backing singers or any sort of pretence of a live-show – simply an invisibly operated backing track, a microphone and himself. Laid bare in sincerity, Krell’s falsetto vocals were vulnerable and unashamed, like watching a man singing in the intimate confines of his shower. Highlights included a R. Kelly cover and tracks from his performance punctuated with Michael Jackson-esque grunts and vocal hiccups.

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How To Dress Well @ SonarComplex / 17.06.11 / photo by Juan Sala

Another highlight came from Shangaan Electro – first brought to our attention by the incredible Honest Jon’s compilation – performing a brilliant showcase of the energetic and visceral new wave of marimba infused native dance music coming from South Africa. They took their eager crowd on an ascending journey through BPMs, starting at around 150bpm and exploding with an ass-shaking finale at destination 184 bpm!

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Shangaan Electro @ SonarVillage / 18.06.11

As usual and throughout the whole weekend, the Sonar Dome stage curated by the Red Bull Music Academy was the place to be for avid followers of the most cutting edge and exciting artists in the current electronic sphere. Hosting appearances from the likes of San Soda, B.Bravo, Teebs, Illum Sphere, Cosmin TRG, Kidkanevil and a particularly energetic disco finale from Tiger & Woods.

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Tiger & Woods @ Red Bull Music Academy Stage / SonarDôme / 18.06.11

Friday night saw Ramadanman and Scuba both delivering excellent sets, however the night was always going to belong to one person, and one person only. All excitement and buzz concerned Aphex Twin’s arrival at the world’s leading electronic festival. Never knowing what to expect, Richard D. James delivered an incredible set live face-mapping visuals and a sound spectrum that both pummels and massages your aural senses at the same time. Incredible beyond explanation.

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Aphex Twin @ SonarClub / 17.06.11

The following night, Bleep threw a little warm-up party with Smalltown Supersound with DJ sets from Bleep staff, Diskjokke and Annie. Later that evening at the main event, we were treated to an excellent showcase from the French label InFine, with a particular stand out set from Rone. Africa Hi Tech took to the stage to rightfully play what was perhaps the most ubiquitous track of the whole festival, the absolute killer Out in the Streets VIP mix. However, once again it was those audacious Scots who seemed to be running the show. Following in the footsteps of LuckyMe and their 2010 Sonar showcase, fellow Glaswegians, Numbers, took charge of the Sonar Lab stage on the Saturday night to host the likes of Redinho, Spencer, Deadboy, Lory D and their poster-boy and DJ of the moment, Jackmaster, with a surprise appearance from vocalist Jessie Ware nestled in between. The UK continued its complete Sonar domination with London’s finest, Night Slugs, taking over the Sonar Car stage, presenting Egyptrixx and one of the highlights of the festival, a super-tight set from label heads, Bok Bok and L-Vis-1990, played out to a backdrop of screaming dodgem car sirens. Surreal to say the least.

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Nursing sore heads and shattered egos all that was left was Sunday night and the Lucky Me x Earnest Endeavours Sonar after-party where our insatiable appetites for more beats and more whisky were sated with the sounds of special guest Gaslamp Killer, Machine Drum, one to watch Lando Kal and the definitive beat wizard Hudson Mohawke. He finally took us to the end of our limits with a hip hop heavy set featuring tracks from his eagerly anticipated new EP, Satin Panthers.

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Another Sonar, done and dusted. See you next year.

Words: Laura Humphries / Raj Chaudhuri
Photos: Margot Didsbury (unless stated)