5 Must See Acts – Sónar (2017)

#Festival Here’s our ‘5 Must See Acts’ playing at Sónar (Barcelona) next week

We made the decision to camp out in the Catalan capital of Barcelona for festival season this year and boy are we enjoying ourselves. Not only a whole bevy of sublime musical action but also sunshine, beaches, mountains and a city rivalled by few others in Europe for culture.

Our first pilgrimage to Barcelona for Sónar was seven years back now. Over the three days and nights we found ourselves going ‘Bonkers’ on the front row at Dizzee’s set, caught The Sugar Hill Gang followed by Hudson Mohawke (what programming), mellowed out for an afternoon with Moodymann and closed out our time by finally seeing The Chemical Brothers live.

Whilst not in keeping with our normal approach of hyping great new music and artists, we thought we’d indulge ourselves (and you of course) by shouting our “5 Must See Acts” over the three Day and Night portions of the festival. If you’re in town for the festival, make sure you catch these sets, oh and don’t be shy, drop a message over Twitter and say hi. We’re always up for a chin wag about music over a gluten free Daura in the sunshine.

Arca (live) + Jesse Kanda (AV) (@arca1000000 / @jessekanda)

Arca’s haunting audio design styles came to a head on his recent self titled album released on XL. When you add Jesse Kanda’s visual genius you really do have something to behold.

Where: SonarHall
Showtime: Thursday 15 June @ 21:00

Fat Freddy’s Drop (@fatfreddysdrop1)

These guys have literally soundtracked our lives since they dropped their debut album ‘Based on a True Story’. We’ve seen them live a number of times now at both gigs and festivals and they always bring a new flavour on their tunes.

Where: SonarVillage / SonarPub
Showtime: Friday 16 June @ 19:35 / Saturday 17 June @ 23:00

Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals (@AndersonPaak)

Nothing but fun from Andy and his band. Seeing this live will be a treat. Yes Lawd!

Where: SonarPub
Showtime: Friday 16 June @ 23:30

Thundercat (@Thundercat)

Bringing effect laden bass and slightly off the wall lyrics into your living room. Better still, watch him do it live, this cat can really play.

Where: SonarDôme
Showtime: Saturday 17 June @ 19:35

t q d [a.k.a Royal T / DJ Q / Flava D] (@tqdukg)

UK Bassline heavyweights unite! Anyone that spent any time listening to UK club music in the late 90s / early 00s knows exactly what’s going down at this set.

Where: SonarLab
Showtime: Sunday 18 June @ 00:40

Obviously there’s a whole host of other great acts on the line up, but these ones are definitely top of our list. Have fun in the sun guys and definitely drop us a line over Twitter if you’re in town.

Ronald Bruner Jr. – Triumph

#NewMusic from Los Angeles, USA

As far as musical families go, the Bruners are quite something. Three of the Bruner brothers (Ronald Jr., Stephen a.k.a Thundercat and Jameel) were Grammy nominated in 2016 and since then we’ve received another album (‘Drunk’) from modern bass maestro Thundercat. Today though we focus on elder brother and drum wonderkid Ronald Jr.’s debut album ‘Triumph’.

Drummer led albums are not all that common, but to tag Ronald Bruner Jr. with only that moniker would be disingenuous. As ‘Triumph’ evidences he is also a very accomplished composer.

The tracks won’t appeal to your pop sensibilities. ‘Geome Deome’ for example escalates through a series of increasingly frantic solos. We get somewhere close on ‘Sensation’ featuring Mac Miller, but catering to the pop market is not what this album seeks to do. It showcases an angle on emotions presented through duelling instrumentation and expertly crafted dynamics. The vocals (when they appear) only add further clarity to the story rather than telling it in its entirety.

Whilst you will undoubtably stand up and take notice to the drum fills and punchy, full beats laid down by Ronald. Jr on each track, the performances this bed lays down coaxes similarly virtuoso like shows out of his fellow players (including Thundercat on ‘Take The Time’).

To paraphrase the tagline of a tin of a well known wood stain (in Britain at least), this album [is] exactly what it says on the [cover]‘Triumph’.

Worldwide Awards 2012 @ Koko, London

Ever since hearing Hold On by SBTRKT last year, I was determined to see Messrs Sampha and SBTRKT perform live. The self-titled lp released on Young Turks marries garage and broken beat influences to create what Pitchfork strangely term ‘post dub-step’. The album includes huge vocal performances and flows seamlessly from start to finish. Unfortunately, 2011 was a year of fails vis-à-vis catching the live show. Glastonbury: couldn’t reach the tent in time. Brixton: SBTRKT were replaced by Big Pink as support to Friendly Fires. First headline London gig in 2012: sold out.

Gilles Peterson’s Worldwide Awards 2012 presented the perfect opportunity to see them live. Winners of the Worldwide award for best long player with the self-titled debut, SBTRKT’s performance at London’s Koko was just one of many highlights on a memorable night.

Take the Pyramids, whose 1970s ‘jazz cabaret’ was considered too future until they recently reformed. Their set was brought to life by charismatic front man Idris Ackermoor who switched to tap shoes part way through the show and won the Lifetime Achievement Award. Hudson Mohawke, Lefto and, fast becoming my favourite Brighton via LA dj, Kutmah, served up juicy disc jockey sets before Michael Kiwanuka enchanted the sell-out crowd with a beautiful vocal performance.

Kiwanuka, the BBC’s pick for Sound of 2012, has been criticised already for lacking originality. My view is that people hanker for wholesome music, particularly when delivered by gifted vocalists. Kiwanuka delivers on both counts, epitomised by Tell me a Tale and Home Again.

The award for best label went to Brainfeeder, Flying Lotus’ all-star roster which includes the likes of Daedelus, recent joiner Lapalux and Thundercat. The latter was in London to collect the award and play live alongside fellow label mate – and ridiculously gifted pianist – Austin Peralta. This set had everything Fly Lo’s at the Roundhouse didn’t – not least live music. From the lush, California sun-infused Is it Love? to the ethereal For love (I Come Your Friend), the poncho-wearing bassist glided effortlessly through his set. If you missed The Golden Age of Apocalypse last August (or were in two minds like me), give it a go.

Jamie XX followed, playing a bashment retake of Drake’s Take Care. This track started out as Jamie XX’s remix of Gil Scott-Heron‘s I’ll Take Care of You. Heron’s death last year ended a genre-defining career in music; his far-reaching influence was celebrated at the Worldwide awards.

Then the main event: SBTRKT live. The masked duo combined drums, keys, vocals and sequencer to full effect, pounding the heavyweight Koko soundsystem. Little Dragon‘s Yukimi Nagano joined for Wildfire but it was Sampha’s soaring vocal throughout the set that did most for the soul.

And so it was that I heard SBTRKT play Hold On live. What is it the people at Guinness say?

Flying Lotus @ Roundhouse (22.10.11)

Billed as one of only three live shows this year, the others in Paris and New York, expectation was high. Recommended in Time Out, Flying Lotus would be flanked by a vj set from AntiVJ and supported by Martyn and Kutmah, the former’s new lp already a Dash’n’Verve favourite.

So perhaps I started to let excitement get the better of me as we filed in to the excellent Roundhouse to hear Martyn drop Mega Drive Generation. Though he wasn’t the main event, the Chicago house inspired Masks and enveloping Popgun from the album Ghost People proved Martyn has a lot to offer FlyLo’s label Brainfeeder.

Kutmah with a warm up set next. an amazing version of Shugge Otis’ Aht Uh Mi Hed slinked through the mix and big bouncy r’n’b retakes reminded of the massive influence Hudson Mohawke has had on the genre.

And so to Flying Lotus. The big screen centre stage blinked with a galaxy of stars (or a windows screensaver as a Dutchman behind me quipped) and out Steve Ellison came, fresh white shirt and all. A couple of bass heavy hits in to his Ableton set, Flying Lotus appeared to apologise for something. Whilst it wasn’t clear what the apology was for, it felt to me as though something was supposed to be better. A quick post mortem on the performance…

The AntiVJ visuals were dull – like being trapped inside the crystal maze dome without a hope of reaching 100 gold tokens net. And from the guy who brought us Unexpected Delight, GNG BNG and the matchless Cosmogramma lp, the sound unfortunately matched the visuals. On the aforementioned lp tour, FlyLo drew on the fantastic Thundercat and Austin Peralta to do something truly live with the band Infinity. This was more like going to an expensive Italian restaurant and being served a Dr Oetker pizza.

Yes, the music was great, typified with FlyLo’s finale of Astral Plane followed by the Rolling Stones classic Paint it Black. But playing to thousands of punters paying 25 notes each, you need to offer more than a laptop and an apology.