Sonar Barcelona: 13th – 15th of June 2024


We returned to visit the 31st edition of Sónar in Barcelona, still relevant to the scene both globally and locally, and as always expanding its boundaries.

During that buzzing week in mid June, the event is its own micro-universe, across the Sónar Week, Sónar Off, Sónar +D and the actual festival that spans over 3 days and 2 nights. We had a rush of presentations, live interviews, dj sets, live shows, bands, installations, performance art and even theater (and of course the party happening all the time between). Here’s a highlight of some of our most memorable experiences there.

Sónar by Day

Loraine James had her Sónar debut on Saturday in Sónar Hall. The set began with tracks from Gentle Confrontation, her latest EP on Hyperdub, and everything got wrapped in sweet melodies and intricate beats. Armed with layers of sound that set emotions adrift between heaviness and fragility, Loraine James assembled motifs filled with glitch and breaks. James’ set was accompanied by visuals by Alessandra Leone consisting of transformed and doubled urban highrises, pigeons, and brutalist structures. The performance then climbed to another level with the addition of Fyn Dobson on drums, who started playing with James less than a year ago. Amplifying the focus of live jamming that James brings to her shows, the set was an absolute delight for those leaning towards the more leftfield side of electronic music and we really felt James had grown into her own with this performance.

Blackhaine: perhaps the most visceral act we saw this year, the performance of Tom Heyes was unforgettable. It started with a noise set and visuals looking to be homemade camcorder footage, with the smoke and strobe lights inside Sónar Hall giving something extra to the experience. Heyes emerged on stage through the smoke in a grimace not unlike a Francis Bacon portrait, his body’s convulsions intensifying in the butoh-inspired movements with those growing distortions in the music. This all culminated in one surprisingly esoteric moment when the visuals on video introduced live feed of the audience, and Heyes descended to the dancefloor to writhe amongst attendees. The distorted projection on screen creating a live-feed on infinite loop on stage was something remarkable. Daring us to look back at it, with its infinitely recording phones caught on camera while the climatic point of the performance continued in the middle of the audience. Quite the live stunt to pull off at a festival like Sónar, perception and interest were clearly captured.

Valentina Magaletti and Theresa Baumgartner gave a glowing performance at Sónar Complex, one of our favorite stages, where we saw Magaletti’s talent as a part of Lawfandah’s band two years ago. The set was co-curated by the Berlin Atonal festival, and definitely one of the picks of Sónar Day. Magaletti started playing with different elements on the floor, and she’s no stranger to utilizing unorthodox apparatus (check her work Batterie Fragile from 2022).  Magaletti walked through the carefully designed scenario where she showcased her unique and ever-evolving vision of rhythm. Such as, playing xylophone with thick synth lines to create a drowsy effect, or drum solos with various approaches to the hi-hats. Half an hour in, with a wirestring brush and a hi-hat, it felt like she was experimenting over a reversed reel in slow motion. Overall the sound felt cinematic and had us thinking about free jazz from the future.


Loraine James


¥ØU$UK€ ¥UK1MAT$U: Yousuke Yukimatsu had it on lock. His technique behind the decks is stand alone and redefines our concept of “eclectic”. Navigating in between the most dispersed and energetic genres, he captured the attention of the global rave scene with his ferocious approach and authenticity in the art of mixing. What we saw was a total party, with everyone dancing and overflowing out of Sónar Park, and we felt that Yousuke would’ve worked great on a bigger stage. We heard techno, future techno, New Orleans bounce, club music from another planet, oscillations in the BPM that induced vertigo and demanded all to pay attention and keep dancing. Placing samples such as: ‘No pare, hijo de la vaina’, all the way to Ryuichi Sakamoto’s “El Mar Mediterrani” (a nod to Barcelona) . His build-ups were impressive, and were part of an effervescent performance that we got to see twice with Yukimatsu also closing out the 6 hours multimedia blast of the Asian Dope Boys collective in Stage+D.


Whatever expectations you do or do not have about AsianDopeBoys, forget it and trust that your mind is going to be blown. A long-form performance art piece up to 6 hours long may sound like it would teeter into pretentious territory, but the crew put on a show disguised as the party of a lifetime. The massive tardigrade inflatable dangled from the ceiling might have been a reminder of incredible resilience and evolution, even in the depths of a rave.

Amidst the chaos a tech crew member was sighted rescuing an accordion and other instrumentation from one of the fruit and flora laden shrines, the public began coalescing into the act and the performance frayed into a drink chugging, water pistol-yielding rave cave. A constant churn of audience members entered the performance, on-stage or in other parts of the scenario, fruit was pillaged from the decor and ¥ØU$UK€ ¥UK1MAT$U was at the CDJs for the finale of this weird portal.

Echoing his set from the previous days at Sonar he played a storm of high bpm tracks and techno deep cuts, we heard “SOPHIE’s “Just Like We Never Said Goodbye”; We ended Sónar Day with ‘Purple Rain’ played in its entirety, the iconic track we all didn’t know we needed. Transcendent.

We also got submerged in those syncopated kicks from the analog techno forest of Surgeon and Speedy J; we felt the dissonant textures of the piano of Laurel Halo accompanied by the processed cello of Leila Bordreuil; and got hipnotized with the minimalist fantasies played by Kelly Moran. At Sónar+D we caught ANTONUS + Patching Panda performing an inspired set in their handcrafted modular synthesizers that drew quite the crowd in.


Laurel Halo & Leila Bordreuil

Antonus + Patching Panda

Sónar by Night

Air: Our start to Sónar Night couldn’t have been smoother, with the French duo on tour for their legendary record Moon Safari. It was one of the big ticket items of the festival and drew fans to Sónar Club. They played their critically acclaimed debut album from start to finish, in one of the most stunning stages we saw at Sónar, fitting a similar aesthetic to the cover of their album 10 000 Hz Legend with mapping inside a sleek space-age style cabin. With the addition of Louis Delorme, they provided a solid sound complete with live drums. In songs like ‘Le voyage de Pénélope’ or ‘New Star in the Sky’ they took us on a cosmic ride. There was also space for tracks from their score for The Virgin Suicides, as well as their album Talkie Walkie, and of course, finishing off the set with Electronic Performers.

Kaytranada: The Canadian-Haitian producer’s act was nothing short of epic. Half of the night on Friday in Sónar Pub presented his latest work ‘Timeless’ released just a week previously on RCA. The AV set was trippy and had dominion over the whole space, carried by his own rhythm of sample-based deconstructions. Futuristic funk, R&B, house, hip-hop, disco, a divine selection and a talent for MCing to boot. Subtle, fun and catchy, his mastery in mixing allowed Kaytranada to spin low key elements into exuberant chaos and drove the audience crazy. Dancing and not leaving his previous hits behind, he also showed that he’s looking towards the future and morphing his idea of ‘a black tropical house’ full of swing. Definitely one to remember.

We had moments of west-coast rap with Vince Staples, glamor and high energy by Jessie Ware in full band mode, improv theater and frenetic partying by the New York City collective Club Cringe (with a crossover of “terminally online” humor and hipster sleaze aesthetics), intense slapping rave music by Taahliah, and the fusion of trap-tread/reggaetón from La Goony Chonga and her dancers -keep your abanico on hand!. We danced to Richie Hawtin’s new live experience heading towards harder techno territories and also moved a lot with the acid laden rave of Verushka, a perfect fit for SonarCar; tripped out with the laser-light show by Hamill Industries during the live set of Floating Points; and finally: had a masterclass on mixing with reel-to-reel tapes by Kerry Chandler, filled with exquisite and masterful house until the last hours and sunrise.


Kelly Moran

Over 150.000 people orbited in a festival that was a perfect symbiosis between past, present and future of modern music. All of this condensed into more than 250 activities. It was one of our most consistent editions of Sónar, and what matters most: we had a lot of fun.

Article by A. Sixta & paranoid



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