Sónar 2003

Members of the D9 community review some notable acts…

Thursday Day

After getting acclimatised to Barcelona’s relentless heat and Sónar Day’s slow-paced vibrance, it was time to check out some music. First on my list – at a lie-in friendly 4pm – was Christ, former member of the inscrutable Boards of Canada whose stunning 2002 debut solo EP ‘Pylonesque’ (Benbecula) injected some much needed lushness into electronica. Christ’s trademark poignant synth swells were intensified often to the point of discomfort but melodies remained emotive and beautiful. The set gradually built in complexity, introducing intricate crunchy beat patterns to create a dense, captivating soundscape.

– Suzie

Friday Night

Björk was followed by a DJ set from Mark Bell, the producer of arguably her finest album – Homogenic. Mark’s confidence must have been dented by the heat-exhausted crowd swarming to leave as soon as Björk had sung her final note, leaving the huge main room with just a scattering of loyal punters – most of whom left soon after because of the seriously dodgy sound, which he was probably completely unaware of. All a bit of a shame really considering he played an otherwise very slick, polished set with some classic electro, exactly what was required to get the party started. Lets hope he gets invited back next year for a live set.

– Suzie

It says a lot about sonar’s diverse range of musical taste that this So Solid pair got a booking, they stood out like a sore thumb on the programme. They ran on stage, shouted ‘UK Garage!’ a lot and took their tops off. They then flexed their way through some bouncy tunes and I was shocked to find I was reluctantly quite enjoying it all, thankfully this didn’t last long. Like all good modern musicians, what Oxide and Neutrino are best at is ripping off other peoples stuff, No Good 4 Me (shouting over the top of the Prodigy’s Charlie) was good fun and was followed by more shouting over the top of Reds and Skribble. Unfortunately they didn’t do shouting over the top of the Casualty theme tune (Bound 4 Da Reload) but at least it meant they got off stage five minutes earlier. The highlight for me was the confused looks on telling people arriving for Aphex Twin (on next) that yes this was him, and wasn’t it amazing? In a word – bollocks. I should have gone to the bar.

– Ben T

Saturday Day

Bringing the third and final Sónar Day to a close, Canada’s Deadbeat took to the stage to conclude Mutek’s Sónar Dome showcase. As the blistering heat was beginning to mellow, spending 45 minutes immersed in Scott Monteith’s performance of dense electronic dub was possibly the highlight of the entire festival.

With a sound which pays homage to dub legends like King Tubby, Deadbeat’s filtered echoes and steady grooves were underpinned with a throbbing sub-bass which rhythmically nudged columns of warm air through the crowd. Some new material was aired alongside classics like Jaffa Dub and To Berlin With Love, all seamlessly mixed via ambient swathes of surface noise and crackling textures. And despite having only a laptop for company, it was hard to take your eyes off Mr Monteith – who was so possessed with his tunes he looked like a man defusing a laptop bomb…

– Alex R

Saturday Night

Jeff Mills plays it hard, very hard, and in my opinion, its still the case that no one plays techno this hard, this dense, this futuristic, with so much depth other than ‘The Wizard’.

As we struggled through the crowd towards the front to get a better view – its incredible to see just how quickly this guy moves across a mixer, how quickly a new record is brought into pitch and into the mix. It simply doesn’t look human. This is all part of the fun with Mills, and what you lose out on the odd fluffed mix when he’s trying to keep 3 decks on the go, he more than makes up for it when it all comes together, with combinations and textures that no other is capable of.

After a brief old school selection, a 909 solo ensues which pretty much takes the roof off the venue. Now this is no mean feat – the room is enormous, holding in excess of 10,000 people. Looking back from the front over the sea of arms held aloft is something that I’m not going to forget in a hurry.

Having never seen Laurent Garnier before, the great man certainly didn’t disappoint, and to be honest, how could he fail?! There’s only one thing that the Sonar crowd wanted for this last set, and that’s classic tunes. So if Jeff Mills’ set was a display of uncompromising, sheer brute force, then this was almost the exact opposite, gently easing the crowd onto his side with an appropriately celebratory set that any Sonar attendee worth his salt should appreciate.

If my memory serves me well (and I very much doubt it) he played amongst others Carl Craig’s ‘At les’ and his remix of ‘Good Life’, Octave One’s ‘Blackwater’, Los Hermanos’ ‘Quetzal’, Knights of the Jaguar (Derrick May remix + Original), ‘I Feel Love’, ‘Rock to the Beat’, ‘On a Ragga Tip’, S’Xpress, ‘Outer Space’, ‘The Man with the red face’, ‘Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone’ with ‘Move your Body’ as an encore. This was a ‘classics’ set of legendary proportions. A packed sonar pub attested to that.

The collaboration with Bugge Wesseltoft worked pretty well in my opinion, not veering too far into jazz-beard territory, just complementing the music, unobtrusively. And both of them were rocking hard, bouncing back and forth like there was no tomorrow.

– Aled

Low Quality Video

Aphex Twin

Jeff Mills



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15 July 2003

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