Millenium Park & Chicago Cultural Center – Chicago, Il
9/09/10 – 9/11/10
From SonarChicago.com, “Sónar is the festival of advanced music and multimedia art that takes place at various venues in Barcelona (Spain) in the third week of June since 1994.
Sónar is a pioneering festival that is unique in terms of its format and content: a leading international benchmark thanks to a carefully assembled range of culture that combines entertainment with artistry, the avant garde and experimentation, featuring the most consolidated artists and trends in electronic music and their interactions and hybridisations with other genres…
To date, Sónar has travelled to London (an annual event since 2002), New York, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Frankfurt and Tokyo, among many other destinations, and in late 2010 a special format festival will be held for the first time in the North American city of Chicago, on 9, 10 and 11 September.
Sónar Chicago is the result of an initiative by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs -the public office planning and promoting musical, performance, and visual arts events in Chicago-, the Institut Ramon Llull, -the consortium made up of the Government of Catalonia and the Government of the Balearic Islands-, Advanced Music -the creators of Sónar festival – and AC Entertainment -the promoter of the Bonnaroo festival.”
With that said, here are the artists I was able to experience…
artist: Jimmy Edgar (Studio !K7)
genre: video game techno meets dirty r&b, electro-sexual
performance: (9/09/10) Whatever funk fix the lawn of the Pritzker Pavillion needed, Jimmy Edgar saw us through with plenty of booty bangers as the first evening of the first ever Sonar Chicago went off… well, with a bang. This fantastic euro-disco from his most sexy/recent album XXX. You’ll be thinking of Jimmy the next time you want to get dirty.
artist: The Slew feat. Kid Koala (Puget Sound Recordings) from Seattle, WA.
genre: turntablism via jazz, blues and fun-lovin’ funk; drum & bass
performance: (9/09/10) As the sun went down on Chicago, The Slew with the notorious Kid Koala gained a lot more fans as the night went on. The cool winds did not stop people from continuing to pour onto the lawn where young and old got down to a mix of hip-hop and jazz, combining cross-cultures with every new track layed out. Worth obsessing over the next time they tour through your city.
other: Kid Koala occasionally gives out EPs, remixes and mixtapes. Check his website for the occasional giveaway.
artist: Bradien, from Barcelona, Spain
genre: somewhere between instrumental pop and classic soundtracks
performance: (9/10/10) I was so captivated by these artists I only wrote four notes.
1. “We are Bradien. Hope you enjoy.” (introduction)
2. Trumpet & bass is where it’s at.
3. Previous album include a split-casette, must find.
4. Fantastic, fun and foreign. Bradien is “nostalgia.”
artist: Lesley Flanigan, NY-based scound sculptor, vocalist
genre: Amplifications– modulating feedback and static looped as a sonic soundtrack to her unique voice
performance: (9/10/10) I arrived a short time after Flanigan had started. I sat and closed my eyes, imagining this well-spoken introduction I had must have missed. I had no idea what lay on the floor in front of her or the significance of the blurry footage playing behind her. At her bare feet lay speakers of varying sizes and behind her (delayed) live footage of the handiwork involved.
But, I had no clue what I was getting into. So, my eyes closed and my mind wandered into the gentle hums of a song (“Retrobuild”) started up. The bizzare experimentation unfolded over the next half hour or so, piecing the drone-like feedback into live looped vocals. My mind tried to see what I could not view from my cold plastic chair.
When I opened my eyes, Flanigan’s delicate microphone movements sliced through these imaginary barrels of sound which hovered above her chosen speakers. Through her careful handling of the microphones, I imagined the artist slicing through these invisible soundwaves like a cellist bows her instrument. What she was playing with was a human-made “alien” insturments. Haunting and comforting, the visitors of the Chicago Cultural Center and guests of Sonar Chicago were intrigued by the unusual result of Amplifications.
other: Find more photos and exerpts from Amplifications, here.
genre: mind-bending (electro-beats meets x visualizations on acid)
performance: (9/10/10) Every time I see Nosaj Thing, I know something in his set has changed. I can never pinpoint what has changed, because the artists’ OCD soundscapes are in a state of constant evolution. With new visuals from Fair Enough (Julia Tsao/Adam Guzman), the collaboration is set to tour the US this November. Unfortunately, the tour is not set for Chicago. Maybe next year!
artist: Huan (Magia Roja) from Barcelona, Spain
genre: slightly “off” and aggressive, eerie horror soundtrack
performance: (9/11/10) I have rarely understood the “experimental noise” sub-genre before. After watching Huan growl and choke on a few microphones for ten minutes, some people decided to spend their time elsewhere. Roughly half the crowd gone, he slowly established the skeletons of an organized piece those who remained. From an audience perspective, it was too inaccesible. The pace of drone music is best left to those who enjoy music at home in the background. Although there are other choices I would go with.
artist: Ben Frost (Bedroom Community), Iceland by way of Australia
genre: rough ambient with more contemporary electronica mixed in
performance: (9/11/10) Similar to Huan, I had nearly lost my patience before hearing artist Ben Frost go to work. Difficult to decipher the difference between noise artists, I suggest listening to his Myspace to determine the nuances of noiseism in the comfort of your own home.
artist: bRUNA (spa.RK) from Barcelona, Spain.
genre: multimedia DJ, electronica, the surprise banger
performance: (9/11/10) After a fantastic trip through real and imagined landscapes through electronic soundscapes and accompanying projections. Occasionally, the video would show live feed of the hands and electronics involved in the live show, a new perspective for the audience.
“Should we play one more?” Carles Guajardo sheepishly asked the audience.
The small theatre rang out in excitement for whatever else bRUNA felt like sharing. The resulting vid and otherworldy ambience took it’s audience through a typical “El” ride, weaving real world sounds throughout the artists’ created soundscape. Somehow, one trip through Chicago’s public transportation became something quite engrossing for the audience. Taking the humdrum routine of riding the CTA, Guajardo re-imagined the scene through his electronics. Morphing the scratching of steel into high-pitched dulcet tones, opposite their real world counterpart’s near deafening screech. The rumble of the train was felt through the Claudia Cassidy Theater’s seats as the faint hum of the Red line’s lights faded in and out. It was almost like falling asleep.
The finale built all the city sounds into one final resonating chord as the film’s final moments escaped the grasp of Chicago’s underground.
other: A late-80s, early-90s DJ set bRUNA premiered at Sonar Barcelona in 2007 featuring De La Soul, Bizzare Inc. and Orbital. Quite long and quite epic.