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Sónar 2014: Winners and Losers

Last week, the annual Sónar festival set up shop in Barcelona for the 21st time, offering three full days and two long nights of (mostly) electronic music. According to its organizers, 109,000 people attended the festival this year, and that doesn't even include the thousands who came to Spain solely for the week's bounty of unofficial Off-Sónar events, many of which featured line-ups that rivaled Sónar itself. In short, Barcelona was once again stuffed with people looking to party, and XLR8R did its best to mingle amongst all of the mayhem. During past years, we've often tried to keep our focus on the official Sónar activities, but in the interest of telling a more complete story, we did a lot more dabbling in the Off-Sónar side of things this time around. Now that the festivities have come to a close, we've done our best to collect our thoughts and jot down a few observations, which are admittedly far from comprehensive—the list of artists that we didn't see could fill a festival on their own. At the same time, we did manage to take in quite a bit of the Sónar experience, and since we've never been shy about sharing our opinions when it comes to festivals, we've once again compiled a list of "winners" and "losers" from the week gone by. Read more » 

Hi-Five: Answer Code Request Selects His Favorite Tunes from the Ostgut Ton Catalog

It feels like a severe understatement to say that Berlin's Ostgut Ton imprint has been on something of a tear over the past year or so, but even amongst the label's all-but-bulletproof release schedule, a few artists have managed to stand out. One of them is Answer Code Request (a.k.a. Patrick Gräser), who officially joined the Ostgut Ton roster earlier this year with the Breathe EP and followed it up this week with the release of Code, his stellar debut full-length. These efforts—not to mention Gräser's excellent DJ and live sets as a Berghain resident—make him a natural fit for the Ostgut Ton roster, but we wanted to explore his relationship with the stalwart techno label a bit further. As such, we invited Answer Code Rquest to take part in our Hi-Five series with a simple caveat—he had to select his five favorite tunes from Ostgut Ton's storied catalog. Read more » 

Bubblin' Up: Austin Cesear

Over just a handful of releases, San Diego, California native Austin Cesear has established a palette that is both unique and highly redolent of his home state. From tracks like "Yep," with its winding, wavy G-funk repetition, to the dubby, foggy expanse of his Deep Breakfast mixtape and the field recordings of his West Oakland neighborhood on "7HF9B.383348H.382753J," it's clear that Cesear has been influenced by his environment. He's spent much of his brief adult life around the Bay Area, living in San Francisco and Oakland, but when XLR8R contacted him last month, he was actually two weeks away from moving across the country to Brooklyn. For anyone familiar with his music, it's difficult to conceive what effect this will have on his sound, and Cesear himself seems just as perplexed. "It's definitely gonna have a difference on my mental state," he says. "And that's really what affects how I make my music, is depending on what kind of mood I'm in. It's hard to say. Maybe I'll start making dubstep," he laughs. Read more » 

XLR8R's Guide to Off-Sónar: 10 Things Not to Miss in Barcelona This Week

Now entering its third decade, Sónar continues to be a yearly highlight for music fans and industry types alike, with last year's relocation to the more spacious Fira Montjuic for the daytime portion of the festival showing a recognition that catering to upwards of 120,000-plus people is now somewhat of a given. At night, the immense Fira Gran Via L'Hospitalet plays hosts to guests such as Four Tet, Matthew Dear, Caribou, Massive Attack, and countless others, but for those after something more intimate—or for ticketless readers—there's a whole slew of independent events on offer around Barcelona that are well worth investigating. In truth, Off-Sónar has arguably become bigger than the festival itself, and certainly features a similar level of star power, at least for those in search of underground electronic music. That being said, there are also plenty of Off-Sónar events offering little more than poolside bros and a limp tech-house soundtrack. With that in mind, XLR8R has pored over the myriad of options that the city has to offer this week and put together what we suspect will make for 10 surefire hits. Read more » 

Corpse Poser: Drew Daniel Tackles Authenticity and Black Metal Politics on His Strange New Album as The Soft Pink Truth

Drew Daniel is halfway through swallowing a pill when he answers our Skype call in his Baltimore, Maryland home. He wonders aloud if the effects will become noticeable during our conversation about his latest solo album produced as The Soft Pink Truth. (A record comprising weird electronic covers of classic black metal songs, the LP is called Why Do the Heathen Rage? and is being presented with the subtitle Electronic Profanations of Black Metal Classics.) Just the idea of chatting about black metal, queer theory, authenticity, and leftfield dance music with one of contemporary electronic music's sharpest minds is enticing enough, but doing so while he's on something feels like striking gold. He announces his excitement to be going on tour with his long-standing experimental duo Matmos, playing a show in Brooklyn with Oneohtrix Point Never (then DJing its afterparty with his good friend Bjork), and attending his adopted hometown's Deathfest, billed as "America's biggest annual metal party," all of which are scheduled in the weeks following our interview. Having taken the pill though, it would seem that maybe Daniel has decided to start the party a little early. Read more » 

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