In line with the festival’s core values of encouraging a connection between creativity and technology, Sonar+D emphasised the relationship between mobility and creation through a range of activities. This was the first stop in our jam-packed trip to this year’s Sonar Festival in Barcelona. Whilst at Sonar+D we had a look into instruments of the future, played around with new software, and we even produced our own little song. SonarCinema had a range of documentaries and short films on offer, we just about had time to watch Harmony Korine‘s short Umshini Wam featuring Die Antwoord, a bizarre love tale about a couple rolling around in pimped-out wheelchairs, obsessed with guns and challenged by outlawed survival. Don’t be fooled though – it’s not all gadgets and creation.. there were tunes aplenty too!

Musically, our highlights of the day came from Gold Panda & Sébastien Tellier. Gold Panda had all the energy you’d expect to kick-start a three-day party, which coincidentally was the task they’d be set. The outdoor ‘village’ welcomed a ‘seductive-synth’ sound from the flamboyant Frenchman Sébastien Tellier, who delivered a stellar performance with an interplay between heavy and luscious pop and electronica. We headed indoors (somewhat reluctantly) over to SonarDôme for some ‘dance-floor gloss’ from disco-house duo Metro Area – compromised of Morgan Geist and Darshan Jesrani – who have been hibernating for a while now, hence our excitement to experience their live set. Metro Area got the crowd really going once they played ‘Miura’ – one of their biggest tracks – hitting the right balance between a soulful-mood and the minimalism of more experimental house music.

The new Sonar by Day location in Fira Montjuïc was a short distance away from the Sonar by Night venue. This short distance was almost irrelevant for all of the journalists who ended up waiting an extra half an hour for their designated coach to arrive, especially when we were standing in line and watching all the public visitors take up their seats on the buses, taking them a little closer to Kraftwerk. Finally, our coach also arrived and with some physical force – which felt like being in a mosh-pit circa 2007 for a System Of A Down gig – we managed to push our way through. Having elbowed others inappropriately and had our own ribs jammed in the doorway, we arrived. Once inside, we were overwhelmed by the sheer size of the complex – a conference centre which resembled an enormous industrial space.

After some effort and navigation we found ourselves near the stage wearing our 3D glasses, ready for Kraftwerk. Their arrival was euphoric, the whole crowd went into a frenzy. They kept the crowd in a constant hypnotic-trance with some of their most famous tracks including ‘Numbers’, ‘The Model’, and ‘The Robots’. Admittedly, this was what we were looking forward to most, but with a scheduled two-hour show, we would have missed our other top act of the festival, Nicolas Jaar, so about half way through we untangled ourselves from the intense crowd and walked on the side to get to the exit. Finally out of SonarClub and over to the open-air SonarLab, we found ourselves front row for Nicolas Jaar who offered a live audio-visual performance, introducing some new songs and providing vocals to his most known tracks ‘Mi Mujer’ and ‘El Bandito’, all in front of a stunning visual display of abstract-architectural creations.

The night continued with some amazing acts, including Richie Hawtin’s ENTER. project which is based upon four pillars – music, technology, experience and sake (Japanese ‘rice-wine’ drink) which, along with Japanese culture in general, has inspired Hawtin continually for over 20 years. He even serves sake during pre-parties in Ibiza. For Sonar, Hawtin invited Barcelona’s own Paco Osuna and British Maya Jane Coles to join him on the ENTER. stage. Coles delivered one of her signature deep-tech sets including her current single ‘Everything’ with vocals from Karin Park, followed by Osuna’s darker minimal-tech. Finally, the man himself took centre stage (as the sun was rising at 5 a.m.) to bring the first night of Sonar to a close, his set was delivered effortlessly with passion and precision. Hawtin’s sound consistently revolves around techno stripped of superfluous elements, that is deep, penetrating and in constant motion.

Saturday’s line-up continued to make us all dance and sweat with thrill and a slightly damaged hearing. Sonar’s 20th birthday was a big party, with every genre and sub-genre of electronic music represented over the three days of the festival. ‘Dance and hedonism’ courtesy of German master Paul Kalkbrenner and US-charmer Seth Troxler. Another exciting act we caught up with was Fatima Al Qadiri, a Kuwaiti now based in New York, who mixes cutting edge sounds with Arabic folklore. The night was rounded up by DJ-par-excellence Frenchman Laurent Garnier (who also played at the very first Sonar), the crowd was buzzing as the first rays of sunshine came through and Garnier played his infamous track ‘Crispy Bacon’. Truly exhausted by this point, we could only think of how lucky we were to experience Hawtin and Garnier for very, very early breakfast – which consisted of water, Estrella Damm and water.

There were also two equally great locations outside of the main sites where performances took place, during the day we visited the Cataluña National Art Museum to see ‘Matter’ – an installation by London-based artist Davide Quayola, a monumental time-based digital sculpture over ten metres high. Quayola’s work is a reinterpretation of the textures and spatial volumes of Rodin’s ‘The Thinker’. On Sunday, the party came to a close, we went to an extraordinary performance at the Barcelona Centre of Contemporary Culture. Taking us on our final musical journey were British composer and pianist Max Richter and Spanish instrumental collective bcn216 – their re-composition of Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons’ was a sombre and ‘enticing-electronic’ creation, a perfect way to relax and immerse ourselves into the Sonar experience before our departure.

Sonar’s official site is [here]

Words by Tatevik Sargsyan.