Sonar’s second day on June 13 boasted a staggering array of talent at both its By Day and By Night editions, including Röyksopp & Robyn’s electro-pop tour de force, a career performance by Jon Hopkins and stellar showings from German supergroup Moderat and French artist Gesaffelstein. The Barcelona event began June 12 and concludes June 14.
1:46 p.m.: At Sonar+D, a researcher from Austria’s University of Art and Design Linz juices an orange with turntable technique that would make A-Trak smile, shifting the pitch and music being played from the arcane white device based on her movements and the orange’s pH levels. She smiles and offers me a fresh glass of juice, the literal fruits of her musical labors.
3:35 p.m.: Tropical rhythms fill the dimly lit Despacio tent, where James Murphy and 2manydjs are curating three, six-hour vinyl sets on a custom built disco sound system powered by McIntosh. Making full use of the immersive 360-degree setup of seven power amps, an unshaven Murphy selects cheery disco records from a sea of crates as the expectant crowd streams in.
4:12 p.m.: “These sorts of sales just aren’t happening anywhere else in the world,” says Valentino Barrioseta, founder of music development nonprofit Bridges for Music. He points to a slide showing fast stats about South Africa’s burgeoning electronic music market, where iconic artists like DJ Black Coffee still sell tens of thousands of CDs to their dedicated township fanbase.
7:43 p.m.: Singer Szjerdene Fox impresses as Bonobo kicks into a rollicking groove that sends the entire SonarVillage crowd into motion. Supported by a full band and brass section, Bonobo drops massive warbling bass lines and pounding broken beats under Barcelona’s beating sun.
8:53 p.m.: British producer Jon Hopkins motions for pictures to be taken as his bass hits the SonarHall in a white light cascade. In a cacophonous rise to glitched-out mayhem and hissing noise, Hopkins’ hands flit over the controls, filtering and layering effects in rattling delay-drive waves. There hardly seems room in the sonic spectrum for more sounds, but Hopkins deftly finds room for them as cheers rain down.
9:25 p.m.: As red and blue dancers fidget through stop-motion visuals, Jon Hopkins throws growling beat repeats into an eerie piano melody and builds to a jaw-dropping climax of slashed synth leads and gritty twisted techno. People are losing their minds and the soundtrack could not be more fitting. Only after the last sound wave subsides do attendees file out in a blissful state of shock.
10:59 p.m.: Swedish pop star Robyn takes center stage in a bristling phalanx of lasers, sporting a Ziggy Stardust haircut and a bright blue suit jacket. As the crowd howls around her, she launches into a smashing rendition of “Never Will Be Mine,” flinging off the jacket and dancing off-kilter and ecstatic through arcing white lights.
11:28 p.m.: Awash in yellow and purple light, Robyn plays “Call Your Girlfriend.” Supported by Röyksopp’s buoyant organ lines and blooping synth solo, Robyn extends her final “let her down easy” before diving right into the introduction of “Dancing On My Own” to the thrill of the audience. The music cuts out for a full 15 seconds as Robyn whirls around and caresses her own back, while the fervent crowd sings the chorus in its entirety. “I’m just going to dance all night,” she finally relents amid blue lasers and blaring synth stabs.
12:36 a.m.: “Barcelona how are you?!” Apparat of Moderat bellows to a swell of cheers. “Does that mean good? This song is called ‘Bad Kingdom.’” The super group allows the song’s first siren-like hit to ring out, pausing as the crowd erupts before them. As Modeselektor go to work on buzzing synths and shuffling broken beats, Apparat croons while the song’s dystopian music video looms behind them.
2:21 a.m.: Swaggering with his sound’s ebbs and flows, Colorado bass head Pretty Lights treats the SonarClub to a varied soundtrack of funky riffs and soulful samples while a prismatic light show does its best to live up to his name.
3:00 a.m.: Puffing a trademark cigarette, French producer Gesaffelstein pummels the fist-pumping SonarLab faithful with his dark industrial masterpiece “Control Movement.” Screaming green faces surface on the screen behind as Gesaffelstein guides the crowd into analog drone bass depths, eventually emerging for a vocoder-driven electro climax.
3:31 a.m.: Norwegian producer Todd Terje serves up a relentlessly upbeat helping of disco funk at the SonarPub, beaming from behind his Corvette red analog synthesizer as ‘80s-inspired moves conquer the dance floor.
3:56 a.m.: Even after the previous night’s Plastikman special, Richie Hawtin’s standard DJ set draws an enormous crowd at SonarClub. The black-clad artist enthralls his dancing masses with percussive snare-carried grooves and booming tech house drops.
4:26 a.m.: Enigmatic British artist Four Tet carefully constructs a laid back broken-beat groove for the SonarLab fans still standing, looping vocal snippets and swirling varied synth tones together as subtle harmonies emerge. The producer keeps it chill for his set’s first half before letting loose with throbbing saw tooth synths and dissonant white noise, riding a lullaby melody and frenzied rhythms to the concert’s conclusion.
5:35 a.m.: Boasting chains and Batman snapbacks, the Martinez Brothers greet the dance-addict diehards as the sun peeks in from outside the SonarPub. Meanwhile, German turntablist Loco Dice keeps the SonarClub vibe dark and driving in a place where the morning no longer carries any meaning.