Four Tet, Todd Terje and Caribou kick off Sonar in Barcelona

Hudson Mohawke also among electronic artists in Spain for annual festival

The Sónar festival got underway in Barcelona on Thursday (June 12). The event, which has become an institution in electronic music, celebrates its 21st birthday this year.

The daytime section of Sónar took place in the huge Fira Montjuïc exhibition space, originally built in 1929, under clear blue skies with the temperature reaching 30 degrees.

London producer and Disclosure labelmate T. Williams headlined the Red Bull Music Academy stage, which showcased a selection of graduates from Red Bull’s music school from recent years. Williams played a set of leading edge house that was enthusiastically received. Also appearing on the RBMA stage earlier in the day were Koreless and electronic music legends Chris & Cosey (who formed from the ashes of Throbbing Gristle in 1981 and released a series of landmark electronic records during the ’80s).

There was no nighttime bill on Thursday, however there were a number of off schedule parties. The highlight came from Glasgow’s Numbers label. Spencer, Jackmaster and Hudson Mohawke played to a sweaty crowd at the city’s historic Nitsa nightspot. Other labels representing the UK included Hessle Audio and London house label Hot Creations.

Friday’s daytime line-up included Simian Mobile Disco, who performed their new album, ‘Whorl’. James Ford and Jas Shaw dispensed with the imposing banks of kit normally associated with their live shows for a single synth each.

Iceland’s FM Belfast gave a typically oddball performance. Wearing shorts, suspenders and bow ties, they spent a large of their set encouraging people to sit down then jump up again.

On the RBMA stage, Holland’s Jameszoo blasted an early crowd with an insane mash-up of jungle and Chicago footwork, while LA-based Peaches protege Simmone Jones threw synth rock shapes holding a Flying V guitar and UK producer Throwing Snow conjured up delicate electronic soundscapes.

On Friday night, the action shifted to the Fira Gran Via L’Hospitalet complex. Caribou showed the results of supporting Radiohead on tour for two years. Dan Snaith led his band through a set of krautrock and electronic psychedelia that drew from across Caribou’s five albums, including 2010’s critically acclaimed ‘Swim’. Also included were teasers from a sixth album Snaith is currently working on.

Todd Terje also performed. The Norwegian cosmic disco king played a superb, feel-good set that drew heavily on his recent ‘It’s Album Time’ long-player. The glitter ball grooves proved perfect for the balmy outdoor space lit by a full moon.

Inside, Frenchman Gessafelstein pummeled the crowd with his take on industrial, while Four Tet’s Kieren Hebden took things in the opposite direction with his fractal electronica.

The most eagerly awaited moment for many came from Richie Hawtin, techno’s top DJ, who entranced the early hours party hardcore with a set that built tension with typical skill. He also gave good haircut: no-one in dance music does a lop-sided comb-over better.

Tomorrow night: Massive Attack and Nile Rodgers.