Sónar Reykjavík 2014

Sónar is an international festival of advanced music and media art. The festival was founded in Barcelona in 1994. Since that time is has spread all over the world, with sister festivals in the US, Germany, France, and now Iceland. The 2014 festival was held in Reykjavík from the 12th-14th of February. Wolf’s Reykjavík correspondent has the story.

Sónar was held in Iceland´s Harpa Auditorium, raised just a few years back to accommodate the burgeoning music scene. The 2014 festival lineup included the likes of Bonobo, Ryuichi Sakamoto & Taylor Deupree , Trentmöller, Diplo, Major Lazer and the local acts such as FM Belfast, Gus Gus, SíSí Ey and Berndsen.



Ryuichi Sakamoto joined by Taylor Deupree is a heavenly union, both being one of the more important sound scientists of our time. Ryuichi bleeds beauty in melody while Taylor adds atmospheric synths and sounds. A friend of mine gave me an interesting take of their show.  At first he could not focus on what was going on: it was too slow, too quiet. Then he decided to close his eyes, relax and open up to the sounds. To his surprise this turned out to be a powerful spiritual awakening; the stillness had intensity, and raised emotions within him he didn’t know he had. He came out of the room unexpectedly Zen and humbled by his experience. All in all, this was definitely not a setting for fist pumps - though there were a few people that did it anyway with wonderful conviction. 

Högni Egillson goes by the stage name, HE. HE has been performing with Hjaltalín and also Gus Gus for the past few years. In fact, he featured on their latest album Arabian Horse. HE is reminiscent of James Blake, with emotive vocals and deep rumbling bass. His finale was a 40 piece male choir – pretty epic.

Intro Beats is one of Reykjavík finest DJs and as producer he has put his mark on the hip-hop scene. Lately he has shifted towards funky soul and house music. People danced with expressions of feel good contentment.  For his last song he was joined on stage by another legendary figure in the DJ scene, Yamaho. This was a duo that as meant to be.  



Skurken is a veteran to the scene. His set was exhilarating, A true master of sound, his tunes were melodic, intense, glitchy and tumbling. I would say he is Iceland's version of Squarepusher.

Futuregrapher has an insanely strong stage presence. A true master of ceremonies, he engaged the crowd effortlessly, talking into the mic, throwing shout outs left and right, before breaking into crazy dance. For the audience, stage crashing is most welcome.

One of the highlights of the evening was Berndsen – he owned that stage like the king of Whoville. He was joined by a powerful duo going punk on synths, drum machines, and other hybrid electronic gear. That is not to mention the absolutely essential bass player – a key role in any 80s synth electronic pop outfit. The show was reminiscent of Joy Division on loads of happy pills. Berndsen and his gang embody the best of everything 80s and their stage presence was dynamite. Berndsen, we salute you!

"It was a circus act on its own: confetti bombs, huge ‘free the universe’ flags, Diplo crowd-surfing in a hamster globe, girls jumping on stage attempting twerks and low-down moves."

The electronic nerds can´t get enough of discussing Jon Hopkins sound and set: some pick at it others love it. His live set was much more experimental than expected with lots of chopped and screwed beats, and plenty of swag. I was dancing instantly. My take: Jon Hopkins is damn good at what he does.  



Sometime kicked of the evening with the premiere of Daniel Thorsteinsson’s short film Acid Make-Out. The film is about parallel universes, dreams and the perception of time. It’s based on the book Sex, Drugs, Einstein & Elves by Clifford A. Pickover, an American scientist. The sounds for the film are all taken from Sometime’s latest album Acid Make-Out.

After the premiere, singer Rósa stepped on stage wearing all white 20s style dress with huge helium balloons hanging up from the straps on her shoulders, giving her the illusion she was floating. The set was all bubbly electro pop jazz influenced with a dash of the 90s. All round, an amazing act.

Mind in Motion set their mark on the electronic scene back in the 90s. They play old school hardcore music, plenty of amen beats, ecstasy melodies, and pitched voices. The story is that a local DJ played one of their tracks about a month prior to the festival. The club went crazy and straight after a fan started a petition to get Mind in Motion at Sónar, and it work!  Their set was heart-warming raver madness at its best. 

FM Belfast is probably one of the most beloved bands of Iceland they are a party planet on the their own. They have so much fun doing what they do. They are colorful, humorous, energetic, and their music is so darn good. They are very engaging and you feel like you’re part of their super friends crew. They gave one of the best shows at Sónar with so much free love they made the world a better place.

Diplo is one cool cat. He is one of the most important musicians of our time, having a big part of developing the sound of today’s popular music. He has worked with a long list of leading artists including. M.I.A., Santigold, Usher, Snoop Dogg and Beyonce. Diplo has the midas touch serving one hit after the other with his collaborations. Almost directly after his DJ set he was up again with his Major Lazor project. This brought some most welcomed heat to Iceland with electronic dancehall. It was a circus act on its own: confetti bombs, huge ‘free the universe’ flags, Diplo crowd-surfing in a hamster globe, girls jumping on stage attempting twerks and low-down moves.  Major Lazor’s energy was a bit foreign to the land of fire and ice, but the explosive set was too mesmerizing to not be embraced. People had fun, mission accomplished.


Words: Tanya Pollock
Photography: Tómas Magnússon