Live Report: Sonar Festival 2019

Live Report: Sonar Festival 2019

Top picks from the pivotal dance festival...

Sonar is a breath of fresh air within the festival landscape.

Despite the numerous brand activations which have become a permanence in the festival environment - and an A$AP Rocky x Calvin Klein cut out which felt incredibly ironic given the rappers arrest in Sweden – it continues to break the boundaries of creative and artistic expression and expectation.

This year, its 26th, Sonar boasted as diverse a line up as ever in terms of both technology and performance. We were invited out to the Catalan capital as part of a collaborative project between Sonar +D and contemporary hotel specialist ME Stiges, which saw Turkish artist, researcher and philomath Memo Akten unveil his latest work – Deep Meditations – a slow and meditative, hour long film that explores “the meditation on life, nature, the universe and our subjective experience of it.”

Nearly three decades since its inception, Sonar shows no signs of slowing down. As usual, the day performances played host to the experimental voices of today’s contemporaries. It continues to serve as a space for heroic, marginalised voices that have their eyes firmly set on the future, while the night edition of concept boasted an equally diverse and interesting line-up of acts.

This was extremely difficult. Here’s our top picks from this year’s edition of Sonar Festival.

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Arca

Venezuelan artist Arca arguably stole the show on the first day. From the very beginning you became totally immersed in the experimentalist’s post-apocalyptic future. Celebrated for his consistently shape-shifting sound that seems to take on a life of its own, Arca’s performance had everything – from incredible displays of vocal range, to an interpretive dance/fight featuring a dancer in a gimp mask with horns, to a naked woman chanting on stage as Arca’s seemingly crumpled, lifeless body is carried away. It had to be seen to be believed.

The term journey is drastically overused in music today, but Arca’s performance truly was one.

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Titi Calor

The musical moniker of Anna Baqués was one of the first featured at this year’s Sonar Festival. Those that chose to arrive early were not left disappointed. A Titi Calor set can meander its way through gabber, reggeaton, funk, pop and R&B as sets heard at the finest clubs in Barcelona (Trill, Club Marabu, Garage 442) have exemplified.

The selector’s performance set the tone beautifully for the day ahead, dipping in and out of trap, reggeaton and dancehall with an ode to the kings and queens of R&B. Fuego.

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Murlo (Live AV)

Described by Mixmag as “one of the most important artists in electronic music right now”, and given the reaction to the handful of live audio-visual shows that Murlo has conducted since the inception of the project, you could say that I was a tad (massively) excited for this performance.

Featuring music taken from the artists graphic novel accompanied album, 'Dolos', released at the beginning of the year, and a selection of unreleased material, Murlo’s immersive and unique narrative (delivered in a distinct Ghibli-esque style) had eyes widening and mouths gaping as we stepped –literally – into his completely hand drawn world.

With enough bangers to keep those gun fingers in the air, and enough emotional substance to brings tears to the eyes of those on the dancefloor, it’s as unique a spectacle as you are likely to see anywhere in the world.

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Jlin

If there was ever an artist who epitomise the evolving, forward facing persona of modern dance, it’s Jerrilyn Patton. Her notable work catapulting the Chicago footwork culture, and sound, is extended upon (and then some) through her work with alongside choreographer Wayne McGregor on Autobiography; a commission taken from the contemporary dance auteur to soundtrack his expressive art.

As ever, I entered Jlin’s set not knowing what to expect, and, as ever, I was not disappointed. At times the bass was so large I thought the speakers might blow. Transcending footwork, bass and noise in a rip roaring exploration of sound that can only come from a direct descendant of those historic juke battles, Jlin continues to push the boundaries of what is expected from an electronic artist.

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Vince Staples

The voice and flow of Compton born, North Long Beach bred MC Vince Staples is instantly recognisable amongst a sea of the same.

If there’s one thing I love about Vince, it’s his versatility. Sharing an ability with MC’s such as Detroit’s Danny Brown to challenge the limits of rap on unorthodox electronic beats, the artist is just as capable of inciting a full blown rave as he is delivering straight up realness.

His Sonar debut was just that – an effortless display of riotous elegance featuring tracks from 'Summertime 06', 'FM!' and 'Big Fish Theory'.

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Octavian

Arguably, there are few rappers that have had as a huge a year as South London via Lille artist Octavian. He has quickly found solace in a sound that is impossible to identity, with a seemingly octopus like grip in the sounds of grime, pop, trap and more.

Drawing on the hard edge, trap beats of tracks such as ‘Bet’, his performance – much like Vince Staples – showcased a mature, reflective and animated individual at the top of his game. He is the sound of an eclectic London, the sound of the UK’s time ahead.

The future, it seems, is here.

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Words: Andrew Moore // @agmxxre

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