This year’s edition of the Sónar Reykjavík festival features some high-profile international headliners, from Ben Klock and Fatboy Slim to De La Soul and Giggs. The backbone of the lineup, however, has always been the local acts. Sónar showcases some of the best that the Icelandic music scene has to offer. So for the uninitiated, here are some names you should ring in your schedule. Or tick in your app. Whatever you like.
For lovers of upbeat and festive electro pop, FM Belfast is just what the doctor prescribed. This group never fails to put on a spectacle and get the crowd pogoing to their tunes. Alternatively, Wunderkind GKR brings his special brand of hip-hop to the stage, while another prodigy, pop sensation Glowie, is sure to wow the audience.
On the more esoteric side of the spectrum, the multimedia performance project HATARI, dubbed “Best Live Band of 2016” by this publication, can be expected to surprise with their dance-focused MIDI-music and Icelandic doomsday poetry. Another intriguing performer is AAIIEENN, whose complex compositions can be described as the thinking man’s electronica. SiGRÚN, a leftfield producer of cryptic vocal compositions, rounds out the Red Bull Music Academy’s (RBMA) Icelandic squad for the day, along with AAIIEENN and FM Belfast member Örvar Smárason’s solo project. On the more floor-ready side of things, Moff & Tarkin is one of Iceland’s premier house producers, while Grapevine’s own Terrordisco is a veteran DJ coming off his impressive EP release, ‘Fyrst’. Last but not least, techno expert Frímann brings decades of experience to the dance floor.
Be sure to save some energy for the car park stage, where UK powerhouse Blawan teams up with Icelandic techno don Exos behind the decks. But before they go on, a plethora of Icelandic acts perform on what looks to be a loaded schedule. Electronic superstars GusGus are sure to draw a huge crowd, while the ethereal Samaris will mesmerise with their unique live show. Indie darling Sin Fang is not to be missed: a visionary project that continues to reinvent itself. Leaders of the local hip-hop and r&b scenes, Emmsjé Gauti and Sturla Atlas respectively, will not disappoint.
Another crowd pleaser is 80s-inspired synth auteur Berndsen, a charming and electric stage performer. On the RBMA stage, feminist rap duo Cyber, dreamy electronica upstart Øfjord, and playful beatmakers HRNNR X Smjörvi represent Iceland. And if you’re looking for more thump to prepare for Blawan & Exos, local techno duo TRPTYCH, veteran selector Hendrik and broken beat specialist Reynir will get the blood flowing.
The festival’s closing night provides a broad spectrum of Icelandic hip-hop. Teenage superstar Aron Can performs at Sónar for the first time, following his meteoric 2016 rise. Gender-bending shaman rapper Kött Grá Pje is sure to amaze, while bubblegum trap-queen Alvia Islandia spouts her rhymes. The unpredictable hip-hop collective Shades of Reykjavík and instrumental beatmakers sxsxsx complete the roster.
The DJ line-up is especially stacked on Saturday. The dedicated Plútó conglomerate never fails to make a party in the most uncompromising way. BORG LTD head honcho Áskell, Berlin-based charmer Kerr Wilson and Reykjavík mainstay KrBear explore the housy side of things. The RBMA stage features domestic acts Wesen, a colourful electro-art-pop duo, and Halldór Eldjárn, who performs electronica assisted by robotic co-performers. On display on Saturday as well, mysterious poetic pop trio aYia. Lastly, the J-Dilla tribute project Dillalude salutes the legend with a live performance.
So there you have it, a three-day musical feast. Now the only difficult part is choosing who to see.