Sunday, 30 June 2013

OFF-SONAR 2013: Tresor, Pampa Records, Drumcode & M_nus, Indigo Raw

You remember that week a little while ago when London was hot and sunny for a whole 5 days??? Well just as that glorious time ended we hopped on a plane to an expected 25 degrees in Barcelona. What awaited us was actually a consistent 33+ degrees and a lot of techno.

I first went to Sonar in 2005 and had not been back. I've either not had the funds or not liked the line ups and only last year did I venture back, for Off Sonar. In 2005 I heard rumour of Jeff Mills playing in a small bar round the corner from our hostel for free entry and thought it was lies. Off Sonar was not so much of a thing then. Last year I discovered it was a big deal and this year it appears to have blown up out of all proportion - everything decent sold out really fast and ticket prices (thanks to a new tax from the Spanish government, are now also far higher than previous years. 2012 was like my techno re-birth. I've always loved techno but had not been hanging out with any real techno fans for some years and Off Sonar 2012 with DSL and friends was me diving right back in. I had no idea who I was seeing DJ most of the time and was taken to nights I knew nothing about. It was generally amazing aside from the fact that the boys favoured night events so the only daylight I got for 5 days was the walks of shame home and coffee on the terrace when we got back, before sleep. You can go clubbing in London over a bank holiday weekend 3 nights in a row and probably get a roof terrace venue involved these days. Why bother going abroad for that?!

2013 I was all over it... DAYTIME events, DJs and producers I've now followed and a healthy clubbing/holiday balance planned. Read the lot or click on a link to jump to:
  1. Tresor Berlin Showcase - Moritz Von Oswald, Octave One, Dj Hell, Regis at Almogavers 86
  2. IR June 2013 presents: Pampa Records at El Monasterio of El Poble Espanyol
  3. El Row & IR June 2013 present: M_nus + Drumcode & El Monasterio 'Vivo at Poble Espanyol Open Air
  4. IR June 2013 presents: Indigo Raw Night with Mathew Jonson vs Deadbeat, Hrdvsion, The Mole at IR Club BCN (Antiguo The One)
  5. Mixes of the week
We arrived Wednesday. We'd missed out on tickets to see Move D at Be Cool like we did last year. I had the best time in 2012 at this venue with it's revolving dance floor and was hoping that we would go again this year but it was not to be. So our first party was at night, for the Tresor Showcase on Thurs 13th June at Almogavers 86.

Moritz von Oswald
We went to this venue in 2012 to see Heidi and Cats & Dogs and I loved it then. Good air con, friendly door staff, roof terrace. However this year, the roof terrace was closed, the security were plentiful and a tad imposing and the drinks were 5€ for a 200ml bottle of water and 10€ for a long drink  - Pretty absurd. I was on a mission to save myself for the next few days so I was on water anyway and resented the bar bill big time.

We arrived at 12:30am and the set times were already up the spout. We caught the very ambient last ten mins of Hintergrundrauschen and then stood about complaining that the drinks were expensive and the sound was way too quiet throughout most of Moritz von Oswald's  set, which was full of roof terrace summer vibes, warm bass and chugging mid range. However after a while it got dull and the fact we could stand next to the bass bins and still converse at normal talking level was quite frankly pissing me off. I was even compelled to tweet about in the vain hope someone would see it and turn the frikkin sound up. Gradually the sound level did go up and as the crowd reacted so did von Oswald and the set got more forthright with some deeper bass and funky melodies. There were a couple of proper hands in the air moments.

DJ Hell

Next was DJ Hell and the volume got turned up to a decent level. DJ Hell kicked ass. The set got funkier and filthier the longer it went on and I got my stomp on. A rousing applause at the the end of the set and a much anticipated Octave One took to the stage for an hour of live Detroit techno. An intro of gorgeous warm xylophone melodies lured us in and then cut to some kick ass beats and treats. I am not sure if I loved listening to this set or watching the DJs the most. Brothers Lenny & Lawrence Burden are a joy to behold. They have been at this malarkey a long time and clearly still just love it to bits. They made me grin like a Cheshire cat - giving out so much energy that the dance floor was alive with it. They got their bounce on and spent the entire hour pretty much doing this:


Obviously we were all waiting for the moment they dropped Blackwater. I've wanted to see that tune played live since I first heard it many moons ago. It's one of my favourite tracks of all time. EVER. The moment arrived and the place went crazy. It wasn't the original but a remix, low on strings and more electronic. CUE TECHNO KARAOKE :) The most amazing thing though is that after well over a decade of playing it, Octave One are not sick of it. Lenny was throwing his head back and singing louder than anyone else in the room. It was a privilege to see such masters at work. They play in London on the 12th July, which I will sadly miss due to work but you should all definitely be going!

Regis is not a man whose sets will usually have a problem following anyone, but he did feel a teeny bit flat after Octave One. But not by much of course. The crowd is now well in the mood for a party and Regis slammed out the stompy stuff but not for long enough! The set times were running very late and I think he only played for about 40mins. A short amount of back to back with Dario Zenker followed and then Zenker ended the night with some slightly lighter four to the floor before the ugly lights went up at 5am and the bar closed - even for water. The night ended at 5:30am, half an hour before the advertised 6am finish. I have my gripes about times and drinks costs and the closing of the roof terrace but they are far outweighed by the great sets I heard.

The next day we slept. And went for a very lovely tapas meal and had a very sensible civilised evening and an early-ish night to prepare for Saturday daytime...

I was really looking forward to being out in the sunshine but it was so damn hot we didn't leave the cool shade of our terrace until mid afternoon and arrived at the Pampa Records party at El Monestario at about 5pm - to a bit of a queue which was luckily in the shade of some trees and shifted pretty quickly. We met up with TIR, PK and NH, AM and other adventurer's - it was so nice to see so many of us outside of London and dancing in the sunlight!

We arrived to the sounds of Isolee with some warm, chugging house, which was nice to shuffle about to and drink to in the sun. The drinks token system was in use here and I was getting some rather delicious fresh juiced kiwis with vodka all day. MMMMMMMMMM mmmmmmm.

Matthew Dear took to the decks looking every bit the immaculate hunk of deliciousness he always does. I don't expect he has ever had a bad hair day in his life. Not even the blazing sun could melt the quiff as we were soon all doing two claps to the side and emanating housey cheeriness. At this point I have to comment on RSK's dancing. I love to watch him dance. He always looks super laid back and and this makes me smile. Our revelry was rudely interrupted by the free Jager shot team parading through the middle of the dance floor like a herd of buffalo in hot-pants with megaphones dishing out test tubes of regret to the clamouring hoards.

As Dear's set ended, the temperature cooled and everyone was more upbeat and energetic all round. I had a chat with PK about how we love techno for really getting under your skin but, the vibe and atmosphere at house nights is always lovely and in the sun even more so. The music may not have been ground breaking for me but the vibe of the whole party was just wonderful.

I zipped off to the loo and managed to miss Matt Dear singing live with DJ Koze b2b Lawrence when they played one of his tracks in the closing set. I've seen Matt Dear live a couple of times this year and expect it was a bit of treat for those not in the loo! The final set was full of tougher beats and dirty bass        

after which, we we left the stunning views from El Monestario to wonder home through the city to do it all again the next day.

Sunday was Drumcode day. I was beyond excited about this as I didn't go in 2012 and regretted it. The venue for 2012 was further out of the city and a pain to get back from so we didn't go and I had to put up with rave reviews and awesome photos from TIR for ages after. This year tickets went on sale for a venue in the city centre and in the daytime so we got in there early and it was the night I was most looking forward to. It had a great expectation to live up to.

We arrived to the longest queue ever, with no shade and we ran out of water before we even started
queueing. Patience may be a virtue but it's not one I hold in any great amount. We got in after an hour's wait and got a set list telling us that the Drumcode DJs had already been on for an hour. We initially just wanted to gather ourselves, use the loo and get drinks so we headed to Indigo Raw's stage at El Monestario, grabbed drinks tokens and chilled on the hill for the end of Portable's set. The place was virtually empty and there was a crazy number of security up there for so few people. Myself and DSL left our group there and ventured over to the main courtyard of Pobol Espanyol for Drumcode. It wasn't exactly a quick walk from one stage to the other - it took a good 5mins through the cobbled streets, with non clubbing tourists on tours littering the paths.
We got there and entered a huge courtyard full of sunshine and the banging sounds of Joesph Capriati and I prepared for awesomeness. I was struggling to understand why Capriati was on so early at this point. The energy was amazing, the El Row team had gone to town decorating the stage as a laundry with washing lines and washing machines. I'm not quite sure what the relevance of that was at all but it made a change from no stage decor at all. The courtyard was full of stilt characters of Punch & Judy and giant horses and tennis players whilst costumed chickens and cats and a clown danced on stage. Stilt guys with water jets sprayed the hot crowds and co2 guns were shot from the stage. It was all going on and quite a feast for the eyes.

5mins in the reality of it all kicked in and I was getting very annoyed with fucked chavs and their inflatables.... What exactly is the fucking point of them outside a swimming pool? We spent forever crossing the courtyard to find TIR and whilst I could hear the most amazing sounds and all I wanted to do was stop and dance, I was struggling with the crowd and heat and when we got a text from RSK that Brandt Brauer Frick were starting back at the other stage we exited by the fastest route and high-tailed it back to the calm of El Monestario.

Brandt Brauer Frick
Brandt Brauer Frick were awesome. I'd bought DSL and I tickets as a Christmas present to see them in London but we had to miss it due to work so I was super happy to see them in Spain - even at the expense of missing Joseph Capriati.

A live set, the impeccably dressed trio were styled for a jazz bar and their techno is a unique meld of their classical music training, a freestyle jazz feel and excellently crafted percussive beats, drummed live on a mix of acoustic drums and an electronic kit. In a similar fashion to Octave One these guys perform on stage. They give out a great energy, good energy, even with such a small crowd. They fully engaged with us all and played like rock stars. In sweltering heat, BBF delivered track after track of funky bass, frenetic drums and a melodic line that seemed totally out of sync and yet perfectly in time. Building crazy piano melodies breaking into a twist of mangled electro and tumbling into godknowswhatkindoftechnojazz. It was chaotic and felt like it almost shouldn't sound good but it fucking does. So complicated and yet so clean. This is what happens when 3 classical musicians do dance. Multi-layered, orchestral, tribal, edgy happy amazingness. I loved it but that was the last I saw of El Monestario as me and DSL headed back to find PK and TIR at Drumcode.

We got back in there at just gone 7pm and Adam Beyer was on. It was at this point (and yes stupid me for not checking before) that I discovered that since I booked tickets months ago, the line up had been changed and it was now a Drumcode and M_nus party. And the Drumcode part was nearly over. There was a huge Drumcode after party back out at Row 14 out of town the same as 2012. I was livid. I'd known about the after party but we thought a whole day then a whole night might be a bit much and opted for the day to get some sun. I thought the Drumcode DJs would be on all day right up to close. Beyer was not delivering his usual techno onslaught and it was actually all a bit "meh". We managed to find our mates and then promptly spent 25 minutes queueing for drinks - made worth it by the fact we all got a few drink token on entry :)

Beyer has consistently impressed me with his sets throughout 2012 including a 6hr extended set last summer and I had hoped for more. I was not really wanting anorexic looking model/dancers in tacky swimwear parading about but that hints at the El Row clientele's tastes and the general vibe of the event (I am nothing if not tactful). The courtyard was packed but there was still a pleasant amount of space to dance. The huge creepy puppets were getting up close and personal with us and sent DSL back to El Monestario whilst I stayed to hear what M_nus had to say for themselves.

The fact of the matter is that I have so much more to say about the decor than the music in the courtyard. It was a big space and the sound system could more than cope with it but it wasn't quite loud enough to dominate for attention over and above the circus that surrounded it. Matador played a bouncy, plinky plonky melodic set. It was cheery and light but packed a punch, progressing to harder beats and deep womping bass lines.

I was miffed now as they had a special guest headlining - which did not take a genius to work out the identity of - and I don't like him so my night was on a downer. I'd been duped into seeing Hawtin. He came on stage and I would have have known that ridiculous haircut anywhere. This may be controversial  (the split amongst my mates is fairly even) but I am not a  Ritchie Hawtin fan. I think he has some amazing tracks, especially as Plastikman and he is without doubt a very talented guy but I am yet to see him deliver a set in person that I have been anywhere close to happy with. I met DSL ten years ago during a 6hr Hawtin set at The End, when I was so bored I had resorted to actually talking to people for entertainment. And in 2005 he closed Sonar with the most drawn out tedious encore I have ever endured. I was virtually sleep. But I am rooting for him. I've heard so many great tales of blinding sets and have heard a fair few online and I JUST WANT TO SEE ONE IN REAL LIFE. I want this cloud over his head to lift in my eyes. I want him to rock my world.

He does not.

A few mins in the sound cuts out entirely. For over ten minutes!?!?!?! We took that as a chance to go to the bar and eventually when the music came back on, I left AG (for a further 20mins) at the bar to go and see if it all picked up. I had not given up on this night yet. Hawtin's set had its highlights but I so hoped Drumcode would be headlining. We were still being subjected to the stupid El Row dancing chicken. Beach balls filled the air and foam tubes bounced about and died on the floor. The stage is packed with costumes, and VIPs behind the decks. The Ritchie Hawtin Hullabaloo. At moments everything gets dark and funky but tooooo many marching band snares and repetitious riffs that just get dull easily. Things did get better and gradually less stagnant and more fun but it all feels very robot automated, nowt sexy or get-2-feet-off-the-floorsy about it - which is his style by definition but I need a tad more soul in my proceedings ta.

Standing outside afterwards, Richie Hawtin is waiting outside and we notice his footwear matches his hair... Over trendy, overstated, huge awkward moon boots, high tops. I personally think he needs a new stylist. And I say that without any bias due to the lack of enthusiasm I had for his set.

PK, TIR and friends all vamoose off to the after party and enjoyed a most excellent night of Beyer B2B with Capriati with Ida Engberg in the second room. I am not even going to think about it. Next year I swear to god I am flying in for that only and going straight home again.

Off-Sonar is not hot my list of things to do next year. Not for a third year in a row. I am sat here right now watching set after set of Awakenings on Be@TV and am 100% going to that next year instead. Next week's blog will be my reviews of the films from Be@TV verses reviews from my mates who were actually there. I think it will be interesting to see the comparisons between the two. Just as it is this week when you can see the Drumcode event all for yourselves here (although not the M_nus hours). I for one will be keen to actually see all the DJs I paid to go and actually see:

We were still in need of a party but the rest of my team were not wanting to travel miles so we luckily found ourselves an after party in the same complex run by the Indigo Raw guys who had hosted the smaller daytime stage.

The IR Club  was a pleasant surprise. We were followed by the Jager parade causing mayhem on the dance floor. The venue had a great sound system, lush air con but was not even half full. Mike Shannon started us off with some funky bouncy big bass house music which took a  nice progression into a more electro edge at times, with Balearic overtones here and there.

Mathew Jonson
Next we watched Deadbeat play back to back with Mathew Jonson. Deadbeat had a decidedly awful moustache reminiscent of the Chuckle Brothers and I could not look past it. Mathew Jonson reminds me of our mate ADJ. Boyish unkempt cheeky charm and he makes fluid moves behind the decks with his mixing like the decks are a physical extension of his arms. The set was live and the pace picked up, we made some new friends, had a bit of a boogie and then headed home about 5am feeling a bit deflated that I'd not had the Drumcode experience I was hoping for, but all in all having had a rather nice time.

We spent the next day asleep and then spent a lovely (if slightly grumpy Spooky Tuesday) visiting the Sagrada Familia and the Gaudi park. It was all rather beautiful and awesome in the true sense of the word. If you went to Barcelona and have not been, make sure you fit it in next time.

Sunshine - check. Techno - check. Culture - check. Mission accomplished.

Audio gifts from me to you this blog come from Adventurer's PK, Simon and James, with the addition of Robert Hood as my fave of the week. Get yer ears ready for some 130bpm deep dark lushness from PK...

Simon Heartfield delivered a fine show on fnoob:

My favourite mix this week from the fabulous Robert Hood:

And should you need something for the morning after, or the after hours try James:

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