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The Mire: Tangents, threads and opinions from The Wire HQ

Swamp Thing at Sonar 2010

Swamp Thing

Ah, Sonar. We love your beautiful home city of Barcelona – full of gorgeous people, delicious food and sunshine. We love the excellence of your stages' sound systems and the way you refute the notion that the clubbing/raving experience is necessarily depraved and dirty. We relish your stellar organisation and helpful, civilised staff. And even though – after 17 years of programming – there are now many hours of bland beats blanketing a few acts of interest, we still love to go to Sonar.

Ah, Hyperdub. We were surprised that your party was off-Sonar, but frankly all of the parties surrounding Sonar, not officially included with Sonar, are part of what make it such a great festival to go to. If you don't like the main course, you can fill up on appetisers and desserts and this party was one of the best things on the menu, even for tired old Londoners like ourselves. We were a little overwhelmed by the enormous crowd at your small venue and felt a bit bemused at how 'fashionable' it all was (has Hyperdub become style-mag fodder?). Unfortunately, not even the improved sound (yes, the same place as LuckyMe's party a couple years back) and your great line-up could keep us there when we can see you lot at home, with 50% less wankers and more room to dance.

Ah, Phill Niblock. We admire your history and were grateful that there was a nod to experimentalism on the bill, somewhere. But what, exactly, was special about this collaboration with Carlos Casas? There seemed little connection between his films and your music and frankly your own films would have served even better.

Ah, aging, reformed, once-popular band. This year you were Roxy Music and actually, we quite enjoyed it – although we were slightly disturbed at how lecherous Bryan Ferry looks, and how young suave becomes middle-aged cheese now that you're all so old. You musn't TRY to be sexy, you either are (like David Bowie) or you aren't. Maybe you should go for dignified instead. Despite that, you played as though you meant it, which we appreciated. However, sorry, no way did you top Dizzee Rascal, who has surprisingly retained his sense of self after spending so much time as a pop star. We can't remember hearing Grime at Sonar before this year, but he actually performed it and it didn't clear the (incomprehensibly large) room. In fact, we saw lots of non-English types enjoying it and dancing to it. But Dizzee, really, even if you have seized the energy of hiphop, must you use those tired old call-and-response tropes? When you exhort us like that, it perversely makes us NOT want to make noise.

Ah, laptop DJs. Please, can you remember that if you EVER get to play a large stage in front of thousands of people with a quality soundsystem (say, at a festival like Sonar?), you should make sure tunes are loaded at utmost bitrate quality? Otherwise, yr shit comes through flat and fuzzy with zero dynamic. FlyLo, we're looking in your direction! And really, you've played Sonar before, so you should know better.

Ah, Alexander Nut. We loved that you warmed up the crowd with Grime before Fatima came on. And dear, dear Fatima. We are actually quite fond of you. We like how you channel black American soul without artifice, although we think that you need to gain a stone and possibly tap into the blues to get more resonance in your wonderful voice. We hope that a producer we like more will make a good track for you! Now, we can't forget Moodymann. You provided us with the most spirited dancing, festival energy of the entire weekend. We love how you have the EQ skills of Theo Parrish, but keep it locked onto the party vibe and how you (like Theo) can make tracks sound completely different. You make us feel that Detroit must be a soulful place full of people who are sensually alive, and not the desolate shell that Julien Temple and others would have us believe (honestly, 8 Mile offers a more convincing portrait of the city).

Ah, Herbert. We just found your set bemusing. We didn't think you really went anywhere and we never figured out the point of your silly ladder or your goofy tent. We also think you heard a different set than we did, because your levels were very off and constantly changing, but we're also sure that it was your own fault and not the soundperson's.

Yes, sweet Sonar, we must say adieu for another year. Please, next year can you offer more experimental music (it might encourage music lovers to come again!) and bring back Jeff Mills? We know he's played every year for yoinks, but as a festival resident he is much cooler than Richie Hawtin.

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