Fira Montjuïc + Fira Gran Via L'Hospitalet, Barcelona
Sónar is defined by a healthy flow of ideas between cultures and creators, technological advancements and innovations in human creativity. This is made explicit by Sónar+D, which fleshes out the festival’s experimental outlook. An ideas incubator tucked away in the day venue, it centers on mind-altering installations, future-focused talks and specially commissioned projects. Taking place a stone’s throw away from the multitude of exploratory music on the other stages, and acting as a prelude to the innovative, visionary sounds of the night programme, these disparate parts of the festival fit together with unlikely ease, and ultimately make Sonar larger than the sum of its parts.
It also created interplay between Sónar+D and the music at Sónar by Day. The impact of advancements like virtual reality on our engagement with leisure found a kindred spirit in Kode9 and Lawrence Lek’s the Notel project, exploring the idea of a hotel manned by automated robots built to serve humans, while the celestial sounds of the Alma observatory complemented the techno futurism helped along by Underground Resistance, whose joyous, four-man live Timeline performance was a highlight of the day schedule.
The future is a guiding force for Sónar. Alongside the direction that future music is hurtling in – like the glitchy, dreamy soundscapes of Kelela and Sevdaliza and Oneohthrix Point Never’s mindwarping noise – were new vanguards of radical popular music. The night program had a healthy dose of stirringly individual voices. Skepta and Stormzy spearheaded the new generation of politicised UK music, while the likes of Powell and Lorenzo Senni showcased thrilling new club sounds, but the most explicitly provocative performance came from ANOHNI. Cloaked under a cape, she instilled human passion into Hopelessness, against the backdrop of miming faces wearing anguished, weeping, or unsettlingly vacant expressions. The performance was gripping and charged with gut wrenching power, leaving many chilled and some disgruntled, and sparking impassioned debate not usually found at events of such scale.
Being confronted by such issues in an escapist setting was striking. Similarly, across the weekend, with the EU referendum weighing heavy upon attendees’ minds, themes of unity and togetherness seemed increasingly compelling, giving Sónar’s involvement in We Are Europe, the new initiative from the European Union’s Creative Europe program, an enhanced potency. Sónar is charged by progressive visions of the future; a pin-drop of exploratory sounds and healthy human advancements amongst an inclusive, international approach. Festivals take note.