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March 15, 2002

++ SÓNAR 2002 To Feature Diverse Electronic Artists, DJs

++ I hope you've been saving your frequent-flier miles. SÓNAR has just announced the initial lineup for this summer's installment of the annual electronic music festival held every June in Barcelona, and it's a doozy. The ninth edition of the Festival of Advanced Music and Multimedia Art of Barcelona, SÓNAR 2002 will take place June 13–15, with a mixture of live performances and DJ sets from some of the world's most notable electronic musicians, spread out across numerous stages and three very, very long days.

How long? SÓNAR de Día runs from noon 'til 9 or 10 p.m., and SÓNAR de Noche from midnight until 8 a.m. or later (some afterparties have been known to thump on past noon). But considering that last year's festival featured 59 concerts and 92 DJ sessions, that's a lot of beats and bleeps to squeeze into a scant 72 hours.

++ At the top of this year's bill are live sets from the Pet Shop Boys and Yo La Tengo — bookings sure to confound the electronic diehards, much as the inclusion of Sonic Youth did in 2001, and Marc Almond in 2000. But scrolling down the list of live performances, it quickly becomes clear that those artists are anything but representative — also performing live are Lamb, Matthew Herbert as Radioboy, Antipop Consortium, Si Begg's S.I. Futures, experimental turntablist Christian Marclay, French Afro-dub artist Doctor L, and, continuing their tradition of unexpected collaborations, Pan Sonic with electro sexpot Peaches.

Last year some attendees grumbled that SÓNAR had lost the plot; they complained that the festival was losing much of its adventurousness as it nearly doubled in size every two years. However, this year's lineup leaves no doubt as to the organizers' commitment to the underground. Yes, virtual residents Jeff Mills, Carl Cox and Richie Hawtin are on the bill yet again, but there's plenty to balance out that trio's stadium-rave excess.

Janek Schaefer, Zbigniew Karkowski, Tuxedomoon, and the Staalplaat showcase (with Massimo, Goem and 386 DX) variously represent the extremes of microsound, noise, and post-industrial din for niche-savvy audiences. And beat junkies should be well sated with the inclusion of Arthur Baker, Mr. Scruff, Mr. Len, Mantis Recordings' Brooks, Bonobo, Cinematic Orchestra, DK, Straight Ahead Records' Sequel and Earthbound, François K., and — in a much-needed nod to the nu-jazz masses — Kirk Degiorgio and Ian O'Brien.

++ SÓNAR has always paid special attention to the contextual nature of electronic music by showcasing the labels that, in many cases, wield a greater influence than their individual artists. This year is no different, with special attention to a number of the cottage-industry independents that increasingly characterize the global underground. Longtime SÓNAR participant Leaf is back with live performances from Manitoba and Tijuana's Murcof. The long underrated Karaoke Kalk label presents Thorsten Lütz, Donna Regina, and Jörg Follert (of Saucer, Motel, Wunder and Visor).

San Francisco's Tigerbeat6 is sure to tear shit up with Kid606, the irrepressible Cex, Wobby, and DJ Rupture, while Kit Clayton and Sue Costabile's Musork label balance Gold Chains' bombast with more contemplative sets from AGF of Laub, Timeblind and Full Swing (AKA Stephan Mathieu). Plug Research returns for the first time since 2000 with live acts from Chessie, Dntel and Safety Scissors, the stylin'est man in laptop techno. City Centre Offices sets up shop with Static and Shlomie Sviri. And label-on-the-rise Morr Music will present live sets from Isan, Manual and Lali Puna, along with the DJing of label founder Thomas Morr.

++ So far, 89 live performances and DJ sets have been announced; if SÓNAR 2002 follows the pattern of previous years, just a little less than half of the final list could be still to come. The most notable absence so far is that of breakbeat genres like hip-hop, drum 'n' bass, broken beat and UK garage. Remembering the blazing outdoor performance from West London funk collective Neon Phusion two years ago, I'm hoping the hyperdub virus will find its host in SÓNAR once again.


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