With Sónar Reykjavík kicking off in style with a packed Thursday night bill, we asked our team to outline their picks from the festival lineup. Whether you’re making rings in the programme with a marker pen or tapping them into your app, here are some recommendations on how you should spend the next three nights in Harpa.
I doubt I’m the first to draw a connection between LE1F‘s moniker and the dude on the statue outside of Hallgrímskirkja. The US gave Iceland that Leif Eiríksson statue to recognize him as the discoverer of the New World or some such colonialist drivel, but NYC-based rapper LE1F is a much better gift to come from stateside. I’m thrilled to see both him and Zebra Katz bring a much needed dose of queerness to the Icelandic rap milieu, which tends to rely on stale paradigms of masculinity and sexuality. On the other end of the spectrum, I’m looking forward to hearing the boundary-pushing cerebral noises of Holly Herndon and Oneohtrix Point Never. I also hear Milkywhale have been cooking up some new tunes; after catching all of their shows in last year’s Airwaves, it goes without saying that I’ll be up in the front, embarrassing myself by mouthing along with the lyrics.
Grayson Del Faro
So I have this theory: the reason that people who categorically reject electronic music as ‘all sounding the same’ are onto something. At least, the majority of it is produced by more or less the exact same person (rich, white dudes who don’t always really know a thing or two about music) and honestly, a lot of it does sound the same. Of course, those who make this absurd generalization only ever mean dance music, because nobody with ears would compare Björk to Skrillex, would they? But—when it sounds new, it’s straight-up refreshing. So I was I was excited to see that the lineup for my first ever Sónar festival contains so many women, each with their own unique vibe. With this in mind, I’m excited to see Angel Haze, Ellen Allien, Annie Mac, Brigitte Laverne, and my favorite new-ish Icelandic band of all, Milkywhale. I’m also stoked to see what Tonik Ensemble and Unkwon can bust out and, as much as I would love to pretend I’m too cool to be excited to see Boys Noize, I’m not. It’ll be ticking one big, fat box off my life-list.
This Sónar is going to be lit. It’s a festival concept that can’t go wrong: a huge flashing building filled with cool people, amazing artists and all-night-long dancing. Being inside also eliminates the very Icelandic problem of wearing coats and feeling alternately hot and cold, which people familiar with Reykjavík’s nightlife will know all too well.
The performance I am most excited for is Sevdaliza. Judging by her music videos, her show is going to be amazing. I am also extremely excited to see Angel Haze, Rødhåd and Holly Herndon. Milkywhale, President Bongo and the Emotional Carpenters and Kosmodod are Icelandic acts I haven’t seen before and sound really good. My main festival goal though is to be in the front row of Sturla Atlas, shamelessly singing along to their songs.
As someone who used to live in the neverending all-you-can-eat music buffet of London, fresh live sounds can be a bit rare in Reykjavík—so the arrival of the moveable feast of Sónar is very welcome. I’m excited that the festival is bringing us Holly Herndon’s conceptual approach to music and performance, and a live set from pop wünderkind Hudson Mohawke. But there’s something new on the menu for incomers, too—Iceland’s electronic music game is sky high, from the slick house-techno-pop of Tonik Ensemble to the surreal stage show and glitchy electronica of Good Moon Deer, and from the unmissable, joyous pop spectacle of Milkywhale to the brand new solo project of Samaris producer Kosmodod.
The Sónar lineup this year somehow managed to capture my music journey the last ten years—from letting Pitchfork decide what I listen to and falling in love with !!!, to listening to music on my own terms and devouring Lone. Because Harpa’s spaces are all so close together, there’s no need to focus on specific lineups at Sónar—nevertheless, SonarLab in Harpa’s underground car park on Saturday, with Ben UFO and Rødhåd, will really be something. On the domestic side, Sturla Atlas will probably tear the roof off Harpa, given the Sónar audience’s age-range, and just before that, there’s a difficult choice to make between GKR or President Bongo & The Emotional Carpenters.
A long time ago in an Airwaves festival far, far away, I was blown away by an impossibly youthful-looking producer called Hudson Mohawke, whom I ‘d discovered on an old-fashioned internet scroll called an MP3 blog (2008?). It was early on in his career, but I remember telling everyone this guy would be huge. I think it was one of my better calls. When you’re nibbling on pink grapefruits with Kanye I think it’s safe to say you’ve made it (who knows, maybe he can even pitch in and help Yeezy out of his financial troubles). And as a bonus, I’ll be attending with a bloke who remembers Hudmo from his DJ Mayhem days, and we’ll be humming classic happy hardcore back at him from the rafters. I hope he gives me that NRG I crave.
Oneohtrix Point Never wrote Zebra, which is one of my favourite songs of all time, so I’ll be going there to get lost in his strange transitions and hypnotic shimmering. His new stuff sounds like teenage angst spilling over the edges of a 90s chrome blender, staining a marble counter top with pepto-bismol-colored ooze. I also refuse to miss: Koreless (Sun is a huuuuge song), Dorian Concept (Trilingual Dance Sexperience sounds exactly like the title would lead you to believe), Mumdance (his solo stuff is fantastic but if you haven’t check out his collabs with grime star Novelist then you haven’t lived – listen to 1 Sec immediately), Bjarki (had a very big year in 2015 with an old track which blew up after Nina Kraviz dropped it in a Boiler Room set—he could be getting stupidly big in 2016) and Auður (a bright up-and-comer hauling buckets of whatever we’re calling that new-wave-of-subdued-and-weird-R&B).
Every time I go to a festival and I’m asked about what I’m looking forward to, I trot out my by now well-worn cliché – I’m most excited about discovering something amazing that I didn’t even mean to see. That being said, I’ve been a Boys Noize fan for a decade. He swoops through often popular pastures, bringing something fresh every time, his endurance is amazing. I have a subtle suspicion that Floating Points’ concert has the potential to be some kind of a sublime experience. I haven’t seen icelandic legend Ruxpin in ages, looking forward to seeing what he’s been up to. When you’re a DJ you know that DJs that make an international name for themselves without releasing tracks are incredibly rare, but Ben UFO has managed that. The Black Madonna is another legendary DJ, some in the house scene are wildly excited to see her set. Lone’s music also has a special place in my heart, he makes everything beautiful. Some other international artists that excite me are Ellen Allien, Holly Herndon, Oneohtrix Point Never, Mumdance, James Pants, Koreless, and Dorian Concept.
I’m gonna see as many of the icelandic artists as I can, because they’re all either legends or potential legends, and I can’t really pick. Here’s some names though: Good Moon Deer, Milkywhale, Ruxpin, Kosmodod, Skeng, Margeir, asdfhg., Brilliantínus. I’ve seen a lot of the Icelandic hip hop kids of late, but if you haven’t, you shouldn’t miss them. The boundless energy of Sturla Atlas, the intimate charm of GKR, the fury, euphoria and explosiveness of Reykjavíkurdætur…
On the Sónar+D front I’m gonna check out the modular presentation of Frank Murder, and Gabriel Bachmann’s presentation of Motion Graphics and Music, and trying out all kinds of machines. Maybe even building a Mute Synth if I find the time.
I’m sure the best thing I’ll see this weekend isn’t on this list though. That’s usually how it goes.
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