Sónar 2024 Report

More than 150,000 revellers from countries across the globe experienced Sónar in Barcelona from Thursday, June 13th to Saturday, June 15th. Under the slogan of 'the frequency of now', this year's event had some familiar names returning with new shows such as Air, Chartlotte De Witte, Folamour, Laurent Garnier, Paul Kalkbrenner, and Reinier Zonneveld, but it was the acts breaking onto the big stages for the first time or making their debuts that impressed us the most.  

Mike Barnard was there for Sónar by Day and Sónar by Night to see acts as diverse as Jessie Ware, Surgeon & Speedy J, Stacey Hotwaxx Hale b2b DJ Paulette, Olof Dreijer & Diva Cruz, Salute, emptyset, Ela Minus, ¥ØU$UK€ ¥UK1MAT$U, and Marie Montexier b2b Mor Elian.

Laurent Garnier

This year's mantra for Sónar was 'the frequency of now'.


After a huge storm hit Barcelona the evening before Sónar started, we were relieved to see the weather forecast return to warm and sunny for the rest of the week. This energised us to get down for the first acts setting the scene for the next three days.

In the SonarVillage, a veteran of the Barcelona club scene, Rumbler, was warming up as we got our first drink en route to SonarHall for another local artist: Bikôkô. Her African roots and influences were visible on stage as well as in the music thanks to a backline of drummers providing the rhythms. Her mix of r&b and neo-soul got us well settled into the Sónar vibe.


We also caught Meritxell de Soto early on. She is known for making her body part of her performance behind the decks: not least her hands. On the dreamy opening tracks, her fingers tip-toed over the mixer's controls while making shapes in time with the music - all visible thanks to a camera angled directly onto the mixer. Every knob tweak seemed to become a ballet move, and as the music built she made evocative shapes before diving into tunes designed to pass the act of performance over to the crowd to get them dancing - fitting for the opening act in SonarPark. 

Meritxell de Soto

We weren't quite ready to fully embrace the dancefloor so took to the SonarComplex where C.O.U. (short for Centre for the Observation of the Universe) were about to take to the stage. This mysterious new Catalan musical project spent the whole set with their backs to the crowd, inviting us to watch the psychedelic visuals with them as they played. Their performance started by building soundscapes with a series of electronic hardware, then they shifted sonical gears by picking up drums and guitars for a more rock-influenced instrumentals while dual slide projectors flashed up photographs that cast shadows of the band on top. The effect was a trippy set which, coupled with being sat in a dark auditorium, put us in a trance-like state with moments of euphoria each time the C.O.U. smashed the drums and set the guitars to rousing.

At one point Cruz swaped drums for decks while Dreijer got on the drums, at another they both hit their respective drum kits in a call-and-response sound off.

Energised by C.O.U.'s performance, we sought out the sunshine in SonarVillage where Olof Dreijer & Diva Cruz were getting set up for their hybrid show of mixing and drumming. Although there was a lot of expectation on Dreijer as one half of The Knife and also an esteemed solo producer under the alias Oni Ayhun, the team up with percussionist Cruz seemed like we might get a unique show. We were not disappointed. While Dreijer took up position behind the decks and used a vocoded voice to say how excited he was to be there before laying down some carnival beats, it was Cruz who used some big vocals to start the crowd dancing. 

Olof Dreijer & Diva Cruz

Once there was a groove going under the SonarVillage roof, Cruz turned her attention to her drums to provide live textures to Dreijer's mix. What followed was a playful two-handed between the pair, grinning and dancing throughout. At one point Cruz swaped drums for decks while Dreijer got on the drums, at another they both hit their respective drum kits in a call-and-response sound off. The vibrant set really kick-started our Sónar vibe and was the pefect appetiser for rapper Toya Delazy on the SonarVillage stage next.

Delazy bounced out wearing a large, hooded puffer gillet, which soon got hung up on the mic stand, galvanising us with her self-labled Afrorave. She rapped entirely in Zulu over polyrhythmic productions and an on-stage zest that demanded we try to move along at her speed.

Toya Delazy

One DJ that caught our eye in the line-up was ¥ØU$UK€ ¥UK1MAT$U - and not just because of his stylisation. Billed as the ‘greatest DJ in the world’, his skills behind the decks won over the Park stage easily. Quick switching between sonic textures but with his ears fixed firmly on keeping the 4/4 beats pumping, the atmosphere was riotous. He’s also known for throwing a few curveballs and we were warned that could range from free jazz or polyrhythmic percussion to gabber and even Queen. 

Given the quality of the track selection two thirds into his set, a trance remix of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers’ ‘By the Way’ was arguably a step too far. Many in the crowd (yes, that includes us) looked baffled by those choosing to sing along to every word. We decided to stick out both drops in the hope we might get rewarded with a lost gem or return to music with a tad more nuance, but as the set slid into EDM territory we made for the Village disappointed even the proclaimed best DJ in the world can miss the mark - for us anyway.

Industrial fans blew gigantic tapestries looking like futuristic national flags while strobes flickered and Devi's vocals veered from ghostly to operatic.

Australian DJ and producr Surusinghe was on stage at SonarVillage when we emerged from SonarPark, performing a set of what she descibes as ‘alien club music’. This meant a wide pallette of breats broken and 4/4 accompanied by distorted visuals like a crashing 8-bit computer game, but through the electisim shined a eye on powering a dancefloor.

Either side of Surusinghe's set we took ourselves to the SonarComplex for Aïsha Devi's theatrics backed by a dramatic set design by Emmanuel Biard. Dubbed 'Les Immortelles', the show of cyber-spiritual ballads and ritualistic club tracks bordered on some kind of cultish ceremony. Industrial fans blew gigantic tapestries looking like futuristic national flags while strobes flickered and Devi's vocals veered from ghostly to operatic. The compelling 'Immortelle' with it's haunting, jaggered sonics was a thrill to experience with Baird's scene setting.

Aïsha Devi + Emmanuel Biard }§{ present 'Les Immortelles'

As the sun started setting on the first day of Sónar 2024, we soaked up a blissful set back at SonarVillage by yunè pinku. Her laid-back sound, deadpan delivery, and yet dreamy vocals somehow worked. Tune such as 'Blush Cut', 'What You Like' (a collaboration with Logic1000), and 'Sports' were delightful from the Malaysian-Irish producer, even if the lush lullabies had us drifting off to the food trucks after a long day of dancing. Once our bellies were full from poke bowls, we had a look at quick look at Folamour's closing set of house and disco, but after the inventiveness of the day, his set didn't inspire us enough to weave into the vast crowd. We opted to conserve ourselves for tomorrow.



After experiencing Sónar by Day from start to finish, we selected two 'must-see' shows on the Friday in SonarHall, and were not disappointed by either. First, we saw Ela Minus who has evolved her music interests from studying jazz percussion and musical composition to making music with synthesisers. She previously caught the attention of Dan Snaith and opened for him under his Caribou moniker on a North American tour, and it's not hard to see what caught his ear.

Ela Minus

Armed with a bank of synthesiser facing away from the audience, Minus produced rich textures to go with her vocals which varied from crisp, tert delivery to a more hushed sigh. She made use of the stage as part of a kinetic performance physically, while also using an-audience facing camera with a filter to sing back at us from the on-stage screen. She made it look as easy as stand out song 'they told us it was hard, but they were wrong'.

After a break in the food hall to refuel (a burger this time), we returned to SonarHall for Surgeon and Speedy J present ‘MULTIPLES’. The pair have teamed up for a debut album Two Hours or Something which combines Surgeon's precise and surgical approach to techno music production, with Speedy J's immersive soundscapes and techno bases. This fusion brought a synergy of techno styles evident in their live, improved set. 

Speedy J’s manning of the drum machine saw the beats start off kilter with only hints of a techno or electro progression, however as the set went on he eventually sorted them into powerful 4/4 rhythms before letting them break back down into calmer, more ambient arrangements. Surgeon’s contribution was to bind these beats with loops and chord progressions that tantalised during the broken baselines to build anticipation of a dramatic release, then drive the more familiar techno formulas to the darkest of aural corners. This was a real workout for the ears, and a rewarding journey. 

We'd only have a chance to breathe in a few moments of Laurent Garnier's set before making preparations to get to Sónar by Night, but the veteran who has appeared regularly since the first edition in 1994, seemed to be enjoyig himself behind the decks as much as those in front.

Ware had put everyone under her spell so a finale of 'Free Yourself' felt like a huge release of positive energy.
Our arrival at Sónar by Night was soundtracked by Jennifer Cardini b2b HAAi in SonarClub who are keeping the crowd moing adfter Air's headline show focused on their debut album Moon Safari. We decided to catch the next live music option: Jessie Ware in SonarPub. Looking fabulous in a sparkly black dress, while surrounded by her band and dancers, we were guests at disco club The Pearl soundtracked mainly by her latest LP, That! Feels Good! 

While Ware's most recent tunes such as 'Pearls' and 'Freak Me Now' might be considered some of her finest vocal work, it was a cover that gave her the chance to shine the most: a cover of Cher's 'Believe'. With the crowd singing along in unison, Ware had put everyone under her spell so a finale of 'Free Yourself' felt like a huge release of positive energy. She encouraged us to go off and dance the night away - particularly with Salute - and her recommendation would prove wise.

Our next port of call was to check out Eliza Rose b2b Dan Shake b2b Sally C at the SonarLab x Printworks stage. We headed to the front right where the new giant LED screen towered above us while the trio blended genre ranging from techno and house to garage and funk. 

Eliza Rose b2b Dan Shake b2b Sally C

We opted to make a switch back to SonarPub for the Toy Tronics Jam. The Berlin label started four years ago  as a place where techno wasn’t welcome: instead they put out "optimistic and high-quality" music, and tonight two of the three founders, Kapote and Sam Ruffillo, offered an insight into their tastes. We enjoyed the throwback cuts such as a remix of Groove Armada's 'Superstylin' as well as their labels' releases such as 'La Musica' and 'Disco Music'. This was a feel good set of party tunes which led us to find Ben Böhmer's  melodic electronica a little too smooth and sanguine to stick around for in a packed SonarClub after. 
Sónar and Printworks faithfully brought the spirit of the famed London club to Barcelona for the weekend.
We'd eventually settle in what was the new sweet spot of SonarLab. Previously we'd been big fans of taking up a spot at the front right of the stage, but with the new lighting set-up, just in front of the sound desk now takes preference. As well as the towering LED screen at the back of the stage, taking a position further back give you a chance to take in the new lighting rigs running high down the walls of the buildings on either side of the long dancefloor. The impact wasn't quite replicating Printworks given the lack of the moving lighting rigs overhead, but we agreed they had faithfully brought the spirit of the famed London club to Barcelona for the weekend.


By this point Eliza Rose was bringing an end to the threeway b2b with her biggest track, 'B.O.T.A.', and next up was the set of the Friday night. Salute's set was a lively affair as he fused garage, funk, bass, and house at an infestious pace that you just had to dance to with a smile on your face. The one-time Rinse FM regular, born in Austria now based in Manchester had all the hallmarks of a future star destined to return to Sónar.

Riding high on the wave of excitement from Salute's set, we would head to Richie Hawtin's new show: DEX EFX XOX. Premiered at Detroit's Movement Festival, there was a lot of expectation on the return of his mixing with a set up that had proven so successful in the early 2000s, but this was a monotonous set with few surprises so we headed to the bumper cars instead.

We'd round out the night dipping our ears into Danny Tenaglia's closing set at SonarPub and VTSS as SonarClub, but neither could match the energy or inventiveness of earlier shows.


For the final Sónar by Day of 2024, we arrived to hear Kittin b2b David Vunk combining, but there were two sets to come that left in awe of what we saw for very different reasons.

First, in SonarHall, duo James Ginzburg and Paul Purgas brought their emptyset project back to life with a live set. They returned last year with ash, a six-track collection of rugged, abstract electronic compositions of just 15 minutes, but their show today was 50 minutes of intensity. While the pair played their experimental compositions creating a wall of epic soundscapes, lasers overhead attempted to visualise what we were hearing. The thunderous shower of noise in a darkened room only illuminated by the flickering lasers couldn't have been more different from what we saw next.


Our in the dying light of the SonarVillage, legendary selectors Stacey Hotwaxx Hale and DJ Paulette were going back to back - and sharing the joy of the music. Hale was the first female house music DJ and producer from Detroit whose radio shows in the late 80s helped bring house music culture to the masses, while DJ Paulette was one of two female resident DJs at the Hacienda. Together they were a formidable pairing who weren't afraid to drop a forgotten classic such as Jaydee's 'Plastic Dreams' or a thumping remixs of Aretha Franklin's 'Respect'. They closed Sónar by Day 2024 with such dignity, they will take some matching next year. 

Stacey Hotwax Hale b2b DJ Paulette

We arrived at Sónar by Night in the aftermath of Charlotte De Witte's Overdrive set so the crowd was super hyped. Marlon Hoffstadt aka DJ Daddy Trance had setpped up to the decks in SonarClub to maintain the energy, and his straddling the line between trance, eurodance, and hard house seemed to be having the desired effect.

Marlon Hoffstadt aka DJ Daddy Trance

We had one set on our mind: Marie Montexier b2b Mor Elian in SonarLab. The pair of Berlin DJs were having a ball behind the decks, switching between vinyl and digital with a blend of old school rave and more forward-thinking selections. Like Salute the night before, the persistent switching of genres meant there was always a fresh tweak to the rhythms to entice you to stay on the dancefloor.

Marie Montexier b2b Mor Elian

Marie Montexier and Mor Elian were having a ball behind the decks, switching between vinyl and digital with a blend of old school rave and more forward-thinking selections. 

Marie Montexier b2b Mor Elian 2

We'd finish our Sónar experience of 2024 doing a bit of a dancefloor hop. Drazzit, the co-founder of Barcelona queer collective MUSA, was laying down the relentless club music in SonarCar while back at SonarLab former Spielraum resident Ki/Ki was weaving together trance, acid and techno at a superfast tempo.


JASSS followed Ki/Ki with her second appearanace at Sónar by Night. Back in 2018 she was the opener for SonarLab, whereas tonight she would close. Now settled in Berlin, this was a more masterful set than the overhyped 'showdown' of Héctor Oaks b2b Partiboi69 which featured a prelude in the style of a boxing match. When the 'challengers' appeared on stage, their outlandish personalities cancelled each other out and the set was flat. 

We reflected that we often vibed the most to the freshest acts such as Ela Minus, Salute, Marie Montexier, Mor Elian, and Ki/Ki, or those old hands such as emptyset, Speedy J, Surgeon someone forging new directions. But it's not just about doing something new: DJ Paulette, and Stacy Hotwaxx Hale proved you can stick to what you know works best, and special mention to Olof Dreijer & Diva Cruz as the cutest pairing of Sónar 2024.


Sunday appendum

As a final taste of Sónar activities this year, we also attended the "Music: Response" audiovisual installation based on Smith & Lyall's visualisations of music by The Chemical Brothers. Surrounded by LED screens on all four walls plus ceiling and floor, we experienced 15 minutes of immersion into a live set of The Chemical Brothers which at times felt like an impressive use of the space. Familiar shapes and beings bounded past us as tunes such as 'No Reason', 'Got to Keep On', and 'Go' played out on the (admittedly tinny) speakers. A bit more bass would have been nice, yet this was a fun way to cap off Sónar 2024.

The installation will be open until July 31st. For tickets and details go to casabatllo.es.

In 2025, Sónar Lisboa will return in April (11 - 13th); Sónar Istanbul in May (9th & 10th). Sónar's Barcelona edition will be held from Thursday, June 12th to Saturday, June 14th. For tickets and details go to sonar.es/en.

The 32nd edition of the festival in Barcelna will also include an Inaugural Concert on Thursday, June 12th at the Palau de la Música Catalana. It will feature works by Steve Reich and Catalan composer Raquel García-Tomás performed by Frames Percussion, Lluïsa Espigolé, and Helena Otero Correa. For details and tickets go to palaumusica.cat.

Images by Ariel Martini (Ela Minus, Folamour, Jessie Ware, Ki/Ki, Laurent Garnier, Olof Dreijer & Diva Cruz, Richie Hawtin), Clara Orozco (emptyset, Meritxell de Soto), Dani Cantó (Stacey Hotwaxx Hale b2b DJ Paulette), Leafhopper (Eliza Rose b2b Dan Shake b2b Sally C, JASSS, Marie Montexier b2b Mor Elian 1 & 2) Nerea Coll (Aïsha Devi, Bikôkô, Marlon Hoffstadt aka DJ Daddy Trance, Salute, SonarLab, Toya Delazy), Roncca (Surgeon & Speedy J).