The first act on State’s hit list for Friday is the ever-evolving Teebs. When an artist is signed to a record label like Brainfeeder, you expect a certain level talent to shine through and Teebs doesn’t disappoint. He works the sampler with the dexterity of a well-versed seamstress. Every little glitch and beat is delivered with impeccable timing, as well as a fair deal of enthusiasm. When an artist is visibly enjoying themselves it makes the gig all the sweeter. About a half hour into his set, Teebs reels the tempo back to a slow grind of blips and bleeps, leaving the bass-heavy elements hanging idle for a while. It’s during this quiet interval that he manages to sneak in a beautiful Boards of Canada sample from ‘Aquarius’. He undertakes this with such subtlety that it’s barely even noticeable. Teebs vamps everything back up for the closing 15 minutes and proceeded to dish out fat packages of sub-sonic loveliness.
A quick dash to the Sonar Village then reveals Four Tet’s set to be in full swing. After you’ve seen him play a number times you begin to realise that his sets consist of a paltry four to five songs, which does seem like a cop out on the face of things, but each track is actually drawn out and manipulated to quite an impressive degree. ‘Pinnacles’, his latest release, features parts that are new to even his most dedicated followers, while ‘Love Cry’ wafts in and out of consciousness more times than were ever thought possible. It seems that Four Tet’s stint as a DJ at the Plastic People club in London has had some affect on his live performance. Where he once played each track as a separate piece, he now seems to meld everything into a more fluid set. His Sonar show is far more seamless than previous performances and show his adaptability as an ever-growing force.
The movement from Sonar Day to Sonar Night is like watching a kids birthday party turn into a full-scale rave. Everything from the setting to the crowd takes on a more sinister tone. Even the artists performing are of the darker variety and Trentemoller really set the scene. People who are familiar with Andres Trentemoller may be surprised to find that his Sonar gig features a full six-piece band with live percussion, guitars, and synthesizers. The Danish artist, accompanied by what can only be described as a gang of electro goths, plays an absolutely furious set of ominous techno – a genuinely terrifying experience, but definitely worthwhile.
Now feeling disorientated and terrorised, State stumbles onwards to the unbelievably vast reaches of the Sonar Club stage. Considering the fact that this stage was once a aircraft hanger, it’s safe to say that this is probably the largest room that anyone is likely see a gig in. Unfortunately M.I.A. fails to do the venue any justice. While she does perform with an impressive amount of energy, her band are completely off-time, her back-up singers are lacklustre and the whole sordid affair is accompanied by some of the cheesiest ‘80s visuals known to man.
Fortunately, Scuba swoops in and saves the day. As the founder of Hotflush Recordings, Scuba is responsible for some innovative music: artists like Mount Kimbie, Boxcutter, Joy Orbison, and Shackleton have all found a home at Hotflush, so when he gets behind the decks there’s a certain standard to live up to. It’s a task he completes with suaveness. Effortlessly moving between UK garage, breakstep and techno, Scuba’s performance is relentless. As a producer, he has shown his prowess with groundbreaking releases like Triangulation and A Mutual Antipathy, but behind the turntables he looks genuinely at home. In terms of slickness and ability, Scuba’s gig reigns supreme above all the other DJ sets this weekend.
Yet, if it’s demonic intensity that you’re looking for, then Aphex Twin takes the biscuit. In true Sonar style, the switch over between the two artists is seamless. First Scuba’s visuals are slowly infiltrated by the infamous Aphex logo, then before anyone had even grasped what’s happening, Aphex Twin is aurally assaulting thousands of people. Bounding into an onrush of IDM, he wastes no time in letting his presence known. About 20 minutes in, ‘Tha’ from Selected Ambient Works shines through like an island of calm amongst the tumult of hectic tunes. It’s to be the only pleasant song. After that he dives into an attack of some of the most vigorous breakcore ever heard, truly testing the limits of the human body. At times it seems as if he’s messing with the crowd; using his stature to create some truly horrible sounds, safe in the knowledge that no one would ever question him. Indeed, some tunes seem to be played purely for shock value, but these surface seldom enough and the majority of his set is genuinely mind-blowing. ‘Black V.I.P.’ by DJ SS stands out as one of the few recognisable tunes and is reminiscent of his 2002 set at Pukkelpop with Luke Vibert. When Aphex Twin finishes he leaves behind an audience feeling used and seedy. It doesn’t matter what’s on next – for most of the crowd, Sonar is done for the night.