Of all the countries and the sounds represented this year, Sónar comes away with an A+ in bass.
All areas of cutting-edge electronic music from sweaty basements from across the UK are covered, whether it’s the bolshier, electro-informed side of the curriculum so loved by BBC Radio 1’s Annie Mac, or the forward-thinking house and techno end represented by label crews like London’s Night Slugs and Glasgow’s Numbers.
Day two, however, starts with an introduction to grime from Brooklyn bass cadet and former RBMA pupil Star Eyes, a former music journalist and one of the first proper supporters of the sound in the US, who flies solo from her party/label crew, Trouble & Bass. With her jet black hair and rock ’n’ roll garb, she looks like she might pull out a Pantera track at any minute, but her selection of jump-up breaks-ridden electro thrashers and low-slung house, which fires up the hungry crowd, is just as punishing. A stellar set, indeed.
Meanwhile, we can’t get anywhere near the stage to see Peckham princess of the London bass scene, Katy B, so we bag an early spot for Four Tet, who proves himself to be the perfect outdoor festival DJ with his slow building, subtly intertwining melodious body music. When Love Cry kicks in, with its rippling drums-and-cymbals tapestry, it’s a delightful moment. We’re only sad that Thom Yorke didn’t join him again, as he did at his three-night marathon at his favourite club, Plastic People, in London last week.
Continuing on the techno tip, we hit Sónar By Night and fall straight into Scuba’s acid-informed set, quickly followed the boshtastic beat-mangling of Aphex Twin. 1990s nostalgia is rife, but elusive producer Aphex simultaneously shows off the main room’s astounding audiovisual capacity as he twists and turns faces in the crowd into gurning green devils.
For a sound that is truly 2011, however, the BBC Radio 1 Introducing stage is the festival highlight and gives Barcelona a big and bold overview of the sounds of the summer. Usually reserved for the high priestess of dubstep herself, Mary Anne Hobbs (she is DJing tomorrow night instead), new dance music champions Annie Mac, Benji B and Toddla T have picked the producers and performers they think represent the changing and increasingly bass- and- dubstep-driven sound of the UK underground.
Their choice goes right across the spectrum, from Hessle Audio’s co-head Pearson Sound (Benji’s pick) to mash-up producer Redlight (Toddla’s) and, of course, Rinse Fm protégé Katy B (Annie’s), who is backed by her live band The Illersapiens. Detroit techno, wonky house, tear-out dubstep, percussive tech-house – nothing is spared in their barrage of beats, though the roars that ride over Miss B when she plays her torch songs Katy on a Mission and Perfect Stranger, helped ably, in parts, by rent-a-rapper Miss Dynamite, really set the crowd alight.
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