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Aphex at Sonar reviewed

PostModernVancouver from Zwartewaal on 2001-06-17 06:44 [#00010023]

Sigur Ros, Aphex Twin Heat Up Barcelona Fest

Sounds of old school (Terry Riley) and new (Vladislav Delay)
mix and mingle as annual Sonar event kicks off.

BARCELONA, Spain — Catalonians know a thing or two about
the slow build, as evidenced by the bewildering 18-plus
hours of music at the opening day of the eighth annual Sonar
International Festival of Advanced Music and Multimedia

There is no better location from which to scout the front
lines of electronic music's forces than Sonar, which unites
the scene's wide range of sonic renegades and parades them
through the vibrant city. Thursday's performers alone —
from Vladislav Delay to Terry Riley, Sigur Rós to Carl Cox
and Darren Emerson, Sonic Youth to Aphex Twin — were
enough to send a visitor home both satisfied and

From the first record, reflecting the midday sun, spun at
noon until the light shone again early Friday morning on
still-crammed dance floors, Sonar was in full swing — and
it was just getting started, with two more days of stunning
lineups still on tap.

Like other global techno gatherings such as the Winter Music
Conference in Miami Beach or Berlin's Love Parade, Sonar's
attendance has grown exponentially with the music's ascent
over the last decade, as witnessed by the 10,000-strong
flock Thursday night. It has also managed to avoid those
festivals' pitfalls, however, by sticking to its guns as a
celebration of electronic music's artistic core and
providing a glimpse at what the leaders of the avant-garde
and the experimental are up to today.

Divided somewhat manageably into day- and nighttime sections
over three days — the former presented on four stages at
the Centre de Cultura Contemporània in downtown Barcelona,
the latter in three hangar-like spaces (one outdoors) at a
massive expo center west of the city center — Thursday's
sun-dappled warm-up was capped by a solo outing from Terry
Riley, who along with Steve Reich and Philip Glass is
considered one of the gurus of experimental electronic music
in its myriad guises.

To an overwhelmingly youthful crowd that appeared well
informed of Riley's far-reaching influence, the composer
moved fluidly through a range of styles. One piece found him
on the piano, wowing with a steady harmonic pulse with one
hand while fluttering out a playful rag-like blues with the
other, combining minimalism and jazz with aplomb. Moving
over to a synth for his next piece, Riley triggered a
stuttering electronic rhythm that showed he's been keeping
up with the techno Joneses, and he accompanied it with
soaring raga-influenced scales, even adding a few Eastern
chants along the way.

Riley's minimalist aesthetic has been all the rage with the
latest crop of experimental producers (whether they're aware
of it or not) over the last year, not least among them the
Finnish phenom Vladislav Delay. Performing from his achingly
spare and deliberate oeuvre (he will present his deep-house
persona, Luomo, Friday night) in the Capella dels Angels
(Chapel of the Angels) Thursday night, Delay's cascades of
gurgling washes swirled through the chapel's chambers,
enchanting and exciting as they soared.

At Sonar by Night, the arty Icelandic ensemble Sigur Rós, a
last-minute addition, revealed that they, too, can achieve
great musical heights with an uncomplicated palette.
Following a performance by Sonic Youth that further
highlighted new and old by presenting works by pioneering
experimentalist John Cage and Yoko Ono (both covered on
their 1999 self-released collection, Goodbye 20th Century),
Sigur Rós began a set that continued to swell in intensity
throughout its 45 minutes.

First accompanied by a guitarist and two keyboardists and
eventually surrounded by seven with the addition of a
violinist, cellist, bassist and drummer, singer Jon Thor
Birgisson, with bowed guitar, effected a pained-ecstasy
expression to accompany his spine-tingling vocal emissions,
and the look never left his face. When the band's gradual
arch hit full tilt — on "Svefn-G-Englar," from their 1999
album Ágætis Byrjun, and the closer — the effect,
straight outta the hypothalamus, was simply breathtaking.

Aphex Twin, perhaps techno's most directly descended
minimalist, dispensed with any formalities upon taking to
the decks for his much-anticipated DJ set, embarking on the
sort of distorted, hyperactive drum'n'bass excursion that
has become his trademark in recent years. The man (a.k.a.
Richard D. James) who built an infallible reputation on
tranquility and subtlety has entered the realm of the
inexplicable, and, often, the undanceable. Aphex followed on
the heels of an excellent live set by the U.K. duo Plaid (Ed
Handley and Andy Turner), whose matching consoles and
flat-screens emit reliably warm and creative dance grooves
nearly every time they perform.

Across the hall of the expo center in SonarClub, beats of
the more conventional, but by no means generic, variety
could be found pounding out of the loudspeakers via the
expertly manned turntables of Darren Emerson and Carl Cox,
who kept the dance floor moving until dawn with a mix of
hard house and techno, including what appeared to be the
club debut (spun by Cox) of Green Velvet's "Lala Land," the
first single from his upcoming album (see "Green Velvet
Completes Whatever, His Most Personal Work").


Clobe Smith from over here on 2001-06-17 07:07 [#00010024]

the sharp stabbing pain in my side must be the dread of
missing it. i survived off of sonic youth (and pink floyd)
in high school. i've only seen sonic youth once, and they
put on a great show in this small venue. wish i could see
them again ...

and now, i am convinced that the only way i will see rdj
live is if i go to europe (it'll be worth it).


M from Fraggle Rock on 2001-06-17 07:12 [#00010026]

I'd be scared to see him live. He'd do something weird like
have a bunch of naked boys running around or make the
loudest most awful blender sound for the longest duration of
time possible just for his personal amusement.


PostModernVancouver from Zwartewaal on 2001-06-17 13:13 [#00010051]

I saw him live here in September of 1997 and its was one of
the greatest , most exhilarating live shows ive ever
The poor waiters and waitresses of the establishment had
never quite seen or heard anything quite like it, and some
of the poor ravers were so confused as they couldnt dance to
3 quarters of the stuff RDJ played.
It was great and so anti-popstar and establishment, with
good ol RDJ lying in the dark, on the back of the stage
lights out to the audience instead.
Halfway through the show some people still werent sure where
RDJ was and the confused looks were just so brilliant,
True performance art, with the teddy bears running around


M from Fraggle Rock on 2001-06-18 08:06 [#00010125]

If I ever got famous to the point where many people wanted
to hear my music in a centralized location like this (yeah
right), I'd either hire some really weird like maralyn
manson to pretend they're me, or I'd be anonymous and put
big videoscreens with moving pictures that are converted
versions of the sound as the focus of attention, not myself.
I guess autechre are quite inconspicuous on stage as well.


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