Sonar Festival

Sonar Festival

Various Venues, Barcelona, June 14-16

If Sonar Festival didn’t already exist, there’s no way you’d ever think of inventing it. Divided into Sonar By Day and Sonar By Night, it marries cutting-edge electronic music and art with an almighty rave in a conference centre. It makes no sense at all.

The Party Starter

This intriguing crossover between music and art means Sonar By Day is also one of the few places where LA hip-hop weirdo Flying Lotus can be guaranteed to start a party. He dutifully obliges, with an opening day performance that rampages from laptop abstraction to a bizarre live jam, where Thundercat on bass and Dorian Concept on keyboards join him to noodle along to Radiohead’s ‘Idioteque’ and The Jackson 5’s ‘I Want You Back’. It works, somehow.

The Dude With The Costumes

The colourfully feathered Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs follows, but Orlando Higginbottom’s productions are vanilla in comparison and his vocals end up getting lost in the mix. Apart, that is, from a thundering ‘Tapes & Money’, which shows he certainly knows how to move a crowd when he wants to.

The Local Boy Done Good

Barcelona’s John Talabot proves an early draw on Friday. Accompanied by serial collaborator Pional on vocals, percussion and electronics, his set furthers his reputation as the Depeche Mode of Balearic house, thanks to the blissful brilliance of tunes such as ‘Destiny’ and ‘So Will Be Now…’.

The Superstar DJs

James Blake and James Murphy follow, and the former is especially brilliant, with a selection of soulful, sometimes filthy post-dubstep beats that are more straight-laced and – dare we say it? – fun than his debut album. Looking oddly monastic, Murphy’s set is the kind you’d expect from the former LCD Soundsystem man, full of dignified disco and house.

The All-Time Heroes

New Order sum up Sonar’s forward-thinking arty-party ethic better than anyone. Their hour-long Saturday headline set may be drenched in old hits such as ‘True Faith’ and even Joy Division’s ‘Isolation’, but a 2012 polish of subtly buffed-up beats and shining electronics makes their appearance infinitely more than a nostalgia-fest.

The Hip-Hop Interval

Following New Order is no easy task but The Roots try gamely. Their soul-infused hip-hop isn’t an easy fit with the rest of the acts on the Sonar line-up, but there are few better live rap acts in the world right now. They certainly aren’t going to let a room full of inebriated Catalans get the better of them, and so infuse their own hits with snatches of big classics such as ‘Apache’ and ‘Move On Up’ in a brutally effective party style.

The Freaky Finale

And then back to the future, as Ninja and Yo-Landi Vi$$er of Die Antwoord make a pretty decent fist of convincing us all that freaky rap-rave from Cape Town might soon be the pivot on which the world starts to


[i]Ben Cardew[/i]