So Sónar was fun this year. Well it always is, in Barcelona. The more times you go, the more people you meet, the more you socialise and the fewer bands and DJs and installations and films and Final Scratch demonstrations you investigate. And so it proved. Most agreed that the line-up, with its emphasis on hip hop, wasn't as intriguing as past fixtures but the hardcore still managed to party for four days and nights, culminating on the Sunday evening with a boozy soiree hosted by Vice at Fonfone where Richard X, Brooks, Raf Daddy and Chromeo minced it up something chronic. Before this we'd tackled the Kompakt beach rave. Michael Mayer entertained with chugging ambient disco, gamely tolerating some freak who insisted on smacking his bum throughout his set. I remember he played that crazy "Safari" track by Andre Kraml, the one with the baying elephant breakdown, or that could've been during his recent Fabric set. Then after our party we squeezed into Moog and caught the final few hours of the traditional Gigolo bash which, deafening, sweaty and heaving, always feels like the Last Days of Disco. No-one suffered rave injuries there this year (normally at least two people get taken to hospital for stitches) and the old guard of Tiga, Hell, Kittin and Trevor Jackson played it firm and dumb for a crowd trying a little too hard to enjoy themselves, shattered after 70-odd hours of the same. I mean, there's only so many times you can jump around to Alter Ego's "Rocker" and endless permutations of Tiga's ubiquitous "Pleasure From The Bass" before your eyes (ears?) glaze over. Honestly, on one of the Saturday night mega-rave stages, these two hits were included in sets by Richard X, Hell and Tiga. Invest in some new records, gents. The Richie Hawtin versus Ricardo Villalobos three-hour meltdown was a delight: a heavyweight battle of wits between control freak Plastikman and Ricardo's liquid, ketamine disco, the kind of deliriously disjointed freestyle techno you can dip in and dip out of, always just tantalisingly out of focus, an undulating extravaganza that never peaks and, if the pair had their way, would doubtless be continuing now. A few hours later, Ricardo flew to Russia for another gig but forgot all his records. I wonder why. Then kindered spirit Matthew Dear performed live, invigorating and intoxicating, and markedly different to the material on his latest album, Backstroke (Spectral), on which Dear adds his voice to a series of addled house-ish pop-grooves ("Grut Wall" and "And In The Night" particularly impress). Like Luciano and Jimmy Edgar, Dear's one of these dreamy-eyed post-techno posterboys, and being handsome always helps. Met that Dabrye chap, too, short and no oil painting; should this affect my enjoyment of his music? Do you think there are girls' bedrooms in Berlin plastered with pictures of these guys? Our Munich buddy Boris from Pasta Musik presented us with his latest single and an impromptu laptop set in his Barcelona apartment when we headed there to freshen up before Vitalic's speaker-destroying live gig. Then we get back to London and realise that same 12-inch, "The Blowjob" by Jichael Mackson, is this week's hippest record or whatever. But it is excellent: a smodgy synth shuffle that crescendos noisily into a Chris Rea riff, instantly addictive. Even though Mathew Jonson wasn't at Sónar, the number of times you heard his wonderful music ensured that his presence was felt. This month the supremely talented young Vancouver-based producer has three incredible singles out. If you adore Jonson from his "Typerope EP" on Itiswhatitis or that "Alpine Rocket" epic with Luciano, then prepare to be dazzled again. Each new 12-inch—the "Decompression EP" on Minus, "Love Letter To The Enemy" / "Octagon" on Itiswhatitis, and a radical overhaul of Sideshow on Simple Records—sounds like a cosmically-inclined classic already. It's imperative that this remarkably gifted musician escapes the domain of the techno bore and doesn't languish in specialist dance stores—his music, always inventive and distinctive, melodic and dynamic, should be enjoyed by everyone. And it will, there's no rush. He's even remixed Nelly Furtado. What? This new Disco Undead compilation on Device has nothing whatsoever to do with Sónar but it does feature eerie disco efforts from Vice favourites Legowelt, Bangkok Impact, Orgue Electronique and all those nouveau-Italo freaks, the whole project inspired by the gaudy aesthetic of stylish 70s horrorists Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. Thing is, these producers release this kind of curdled synth-noir anyway—the last Legowelt EP was terrifying (as in scary, not bad)—so it's hardly a dramatic detour. It's like asking a load of rappers to write songs inspired by their thugged-out lifestyle. Way, way better is the latest single from The Emperor Machine, "The TV Extra Band" / "Bloody Hell", a demented, double-sided Doomsday disco voyage orchestrated by synth sage Andy Meecham (the Chicken Lips / Bizarre Inc. guy). This record is nuts and I think his upcoming album Aimee Tallulah Is Hypnotised could well be the best record ever made. I'm not crazy about the title but, slowly, I'm warming to it. Speaking of macabre goings-on, on Thursday, August 12, Vice's Cocadisco night has former Flesh Records supremo Midnight Mike playing what's bound to be an amazing set. Every guest so far has been incredible, that's just the way it is. Why, last month, Ceephax mixed the Lovejoy theme into a Trax classic. And this one'll be crazy too so get down to The Social (5 Little Portland Street, London W1; Oxford Circus tube), from 7p.m till 11 p.m. (but hopefully later if they get that dancing licence). Free.
So Sónar was fun this year. Well it always is, in Barcelona. The more times you go, the more people you meet, the more you socialise and the fewer bands and DJs and installations and films and Final Scratch demonstrations you investigate.