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Sónar Festival Day 1, Koncerthuset, 13.03.2015

in Live Reviews by

Sónar’s inaugural Copenhagen festival, cushioned within different spaces at DR Koncerthuset, ironically covers a lot of ground. There is the broad spectrum of electronica represented, from pop music to dance friendly synths to industrial to the somewhat frightening. But then there is also the balance to strike in atmosphere between festival and club night, unsure of whether it wants to be bright and shiny or evoke a warehouse feel. Where Sónar succeeds is in allowing everyone to physically move from room to room and adapt accordingly.

— Words by Amanda Farah and Alex Maenchen

Smerz — 19:30

There are two hard surfaces prominently at play as Sonar Festival kicks off its two-day residency in DR Koncerthuset: Metal and glass. Opening the program on the intimate SonarDome stage, the Norwegian duo Smerz embody the venue’s stark concrete staircases with their uncompromising brand of electronic pop. It feels like a deliberate choice to play on the basement level because here everything hits you heads up. Henriette Motzfeldt and Catharina Stoltenberg’s compositions are measured, two-part exercises in breakbeat that mix the sublime with the violent. The machine Smerz builds from it is one Stoltenberg operates with deft percussive gearshifts, throwing up gang signs like its a FUBU convention, while Motzfeldt feeds it with her porcelain vocals and melodic keys. They’re definitely tougher than they look and almost as tough as they sound—sometimes they rip it so hard that it seems like wheels are going to fall off, but then you hear the tires squeal so slow they grind. —AM

Puce Mary — 20:00

What’s most jarring about Puce Mary is the beautiful, serene expression fixed on her face even as horror movie screams of feedback rise up around her. The only time that beatific expression changes is when she sings, holding the mic close to her mouth in her fists and producing guttural, inhuman sounds. She spends her set bowing something that doesn’t appear to be a stringed instrument and eking out rhythms from pulsing industrial noise and series of stutters and clangs. Add to that the soft colored lights swirling around the room and it’s like going to prom in the third circle of Hell. —AF

Sekuoia — 20:25

Sekuoia takes the stage and won’t let you forget it. Behind him the LCD screen shows the name plastered in tall, static white letters superimposed on scenes of blue and white skies, blue and white mountains, blue and white islands in the ocean. And that’s what the proceedings feel like: static and white, and sometimes blue. Sekuoia may be the stage name of 21-year-old electro ventriloquist Patrick Alexander Bech Madsen, but considerable credit should be given to the mercenary work by his accompanying guitarist and drummer, who both look clean out of a Dorito-encrumbed sofa cushion variety Red Hot Chili Peppers cover band. While Mr. Madsen takes a swig of water mid-song, the facade of live performance is held somewhat intact by his band. It doesn’t help matters that these songs seem build proof, never committing to a thought long enough to let the non-dancers in the crowd enjoy it too. These kids should be watchmakers, you can set time to these beats. But some flourishes make the stage show entertaining, and this goes for the drummer especially, who at times looks to sprout second and third heads where his shoulders are. In Sekuoia’s world of stacked samples and resonant dins, the clash of a real high hat goes a long way. When technical issues bring the show to an anticlimactic end, it becomes clear that the music is just a blue color swatch, cut so square and flat that the most interesting thing about it is the funny name behind it: Sekuoia. —AM

Darkness Falls — 20:45

The Danish trio makes for a convincing, non-specifically 80s tribute band right down to their costumes: Their singer is wearing an amazing sequined dress with severely jutting shoulder pads that look like they could cause harm. Their performance paints them as a band with potential to be a really great pop band some day. Their programming is pretty slick — which is good, because there’s more programming than anything else despite the presence of keyboards, guitar, and drums — their energy is good even if their movements are a little awkward, and they have a cohesive direction. And based on the way their final song is received, they have at least a few hometown fans ready to go crazy over them. —AF

Vessel
Vessel

Metronomy — 22:00

Perhaps what fans find most charming about Metronomy is their unabashed approach to heartfelt indie pop, and with a frontman in Joseph Mount who seems the kind to shyly shrug when asked whether he’s got any plans on prom night, it’s difficult to think it’s all some sort of coy affectation. Whatever doubts a middling appreciation for their studio recordings may conjure, Metronomy are for real. On the big SonarClub stage, they get right to the point with “Love Letters,” a song which could run on an endless loop on a channel devoted to unrealized iPod commercials. Percussions are particularly emphasized in keeping with their dancier numbers, working to push the other instruments forward rather than snuff them out. It’s a simple but smart bit of audio engineering that has the rest of the band all jazzing hands and gesturing toward drummer Anna Prior before Gbenga Adelekan’s bass plunks in on “The Look.” Metronomy’s music is given dimension on the stage that it just doesn’t have at home, in spite of whatever high end DJ rig you may play them through. “Resevoir” bleeps and bloops while Prior and keyboardist Oscar Cash do a go-go jig, and “Corinne” is a go-nowhere song that highlights precisely what’s working for this group—an infectious conviction to hit the notes, no matter how dull they are, as square and precisely as possible that you could very well take them home to meet your mother and go out for a raucous jig on the dance floor afterwards. —AM

Kenton Slash Demon — 23:15

The Kenton Slash Demon set feels like a welcome recalibration of mood. Big beats veiled in thick synths—like a good lover, they take their time. This is a DJ set through and through, but you’re in it. Everything is prudently mixed so as to give generous room for the listener to sink into the pulse of the track. Their builds are like suspension cables pulling taut. Even the out-of-place looking lady who caught the tambourine during the Metronomy set can’t resist joining in. The bar setup ensures that beer flows one way, into the thick of the crowd, and where it isn’t flowing in, it’s keeping those not having any fun stuck to the floor. The guys on stage are all smiles as they pull onto the familiar gravel of their own driveway—big beats and emotional high notes. They fade out in a mist of reverb before they pop the clutch for one more go. —AM

Vessel — 23:35

There is something inherently violent about Vessel’s music. His set opens with searing, painful static that, when it settles into something that by comparison could only be called gentler, it’s still thick, sludgy, and metallic. It’s also so beat-heavy that people are dancing in as thrashy a way as one can before they’re technically moshing. Behind Vessels is a series of distressing film projections — even the overly sexual ones imply distress — that are mesmerizingly well synched. So mesmerizing that I failed to notice at what point he had taken off his shirt, and really, the flailing, sweaty man behind the table would have been pretty compelling on his own. —AF

Jon Hopkins — 00:30

For a man with a slight frame, Jon Hopkin’s got clout. It seems only he can open a set with extended, elliptical whirring, like the orchestral track’s been ripped from it spine and skull, and still have the crowd visibly excited for what’s coming. The images on the screen behind him are like a minimalist film, primitive graphics interspersed with hi-def photography of particles from deep space, be it that of a night sky or a fathomless ocean. Point is, he’s sending our world spinning in a surge of fragments. His beats are incisive and sharp and dampened with sonar pings of strings. Hopkins is best when he’s building these polygonal sound structures, these open marriages of percussion and synths. About twenty minutes in there appears to be technical difficulties, with the video going black. Three minutes pass as things are furiously rewired. A heartbeat. High hat. Snare. We’re back and Hopkins is more animated than ever, a mad ship’s captain whose way of fixing what’s broke is breaking it some more. One thing was always certain—he’s was never going to let us drift. —AM

PLAYLIST: Sónar Copenhagen

in Blog by

Since its beginning in Barcelona in 1994 the electronic music festival Sónar has expanded to over 46 cities acros the globe. This weekend Sónar is coming to Copenhagen. We have made a little selection of artists that will be playing the festival.
With a slight focus on local artists, our playlist spans the electronic pop of Kwamie Liv to the techno-infused avant-garde industrial soundscapes of artists like Puce Mary and Vessel.

Sekuoia

Sekuoia, the moniker of Alexander Bech Madsen, produces atmospheric and dreamy electronica with dry beats and synths. Listen to Here Today’s session with Sekuoia from last year, as well as the one Sekuoia recorded together with Ice Cream Cathedral.

Vessel

In 2014 Vessel released their second studio album, Punish, Honey, described by Sonar as “one of 2014’s most stimulating and challenging”. Drowned In Sound wrote “It’s broodingly mechanic, and yet harrowingly human; it’s truly Bristolian, and neither futuristic nor nostalgic; it’s simply and unignorably now.”

Tri Angle, Vessel’s label, is also home to artists like Haxan Cloak and Forrest Swords.

Kwamie Liv

Kwamie Liv is on the rise. Big time. Simple as that.

Factory Floor

Factory Floor is a band that has to be seen live. With influences that range from Throbbing Gristle to Depeche Mode their sound combines dark and industrial tones with a rapturous rhythm section.

AV AV AV

AV AV AV was formed in late 2013 by three already established names on the danish electronc scene: UNKWON, ELOQ AND DJ E.D.D.E.H. They first track ‘All Good’ became a summer essantial and since then AV AV AV has progressed at a steady pace, with a big show at DR Koncerthuset and a spot on the poster for Roskilde Festival 2015.

Puce Mary

When Frederikke Hoffmeier goes on stage she is Puce Mary, an artist known for her experiental music, shifting from sound art over minimal synth to techno. Puce Mary is released on labels such as Posh Isolation, Freak Animal and Ideal Recordings.

Taragana Pyjarama

Taragana Pyjarama’s debut album was relased on the German label Kompakt, which is about as high as you can get when it comes to European electronic dance music and ambient pop. Before that – in 2011 – he had an EP out on French label Fool House. His sound has been compared to artists like Panda Bear. Taragana Pyjarama’s latest release, Nothing Hype, is published on Wyrd, his own label. Here Today did a session with him in 2013 which you can listen to below.

Sonar Copenhagen will take place on the 13. & 14. of March 2015

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