With minds prised open by what went before, day three of Sonar 2011 was an eclectic riot of sounds old, new and plain bonkers, so reports Kate Hutchinson...
Soundclash legend David Rodigan bounds onto the Red Bull Music Academy stage, blasting away hangovers with his sun-baked bass music and infectious high-kicking enthusiasm. Part history lesson, part rave-up, Rodigan’s pin-sharp set takes us back to dub culture’s early Jamaican roots, as he shares vintage dubplates pressed at King Tubby's, and zips right up to today’s global version of the sound, as plied by Shy FX, Major Lazer, Italian Balkan house producer Riva Starr and Breakage, whose junglist remix of Shy FX's Raver lights the touch paper here. An over-excited finger hovering over the rewind button has the crowd begging for more – most of them only just recovering from disbelief that a bespectacled white pensioner can skank harder than most of today’s sullen dubstep fraternity.
After the turbocharged opening, the ambient subtlety of Global Communication proves a little too laidback and so it’s outside to the main stage for Eminem protégé Yelawolf, who's throwing down his straight-off-the-trailer-park hip hop.
Back at the RBMA stage, Manchester's dubstep linchpin and 2010 Red Bull Academy student Illum Sphere is showcasing his club night Hoya Hoya’s unique sound, expertly syncing together grimey UK dubstep-house with LA’s psychedelic hip-hop, Baltimore bounce, Hyperdub’s wonky side and euphoric full-tilt drum ’n’ bass. It’s a sonic sphere that is completely his own and one that's unmistakably – ahem – ill. Expect big things from this chap.
Continuing the day's thread of unique sounds and even more unique performances, the South African Shangaan Electro collective storm the main stage in a kaleidoscopic shower of vivid costumes and rapid-fire beats. Comprised of rotund producer Nozinja and the Tshetsha dancers, resplendent in masks, wigs and orange boiler suits, they educate us in a sound that's derived from Soweto’s Tsonga Shangaan tradition but played on cheap electronic equipment at breakneck speed. Their aim, Nozinja booms, is to hit 184bpm, which thrills a crowd attempting to mimic the collective's rump-shaking moves. By the end, the Tshetsha boys have hopped off stage to show us exactly how.
Come the evening and we’re exploring another realm of African-influenced music. Warp's new signing Africa Hitech is a curious project helmed by a pairing of electronic innovator Mark Pritchard, who played earlier as Global Communication, and J Dilla ally Steve Spacek. Their clattering, grime-inflected productions sound like a futuristic war cry roaring from the speakers, all tribal polyrhythms and echoing dub samples. For all their sonic innovation, though, this is a duo who need to play somewhere sweat drips from the ceiling and where the soundsystem cracks skulls. They're a little flat on this enormous stage.
In stark contrast, The Gaslamp Killer’s set is a rush of mind-harrying brilliance. A member of Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder crew and a linchpin of LA club night Low End Theory, Killer twists, bends and flips-out over his mixing desk like a demented wizard cooking up some magic broth; it’s like watching a ’70s prog rock god more than it is an underground hip hop producer. And when he unfurls The Yardbirds’ For Your Love into some filthy hip-hop crunk, his huge mop of curls flying about him, the Killer looks like he might just dive into the audience and crowd surf his way to Mary Anne Hobbs, who's DJing a set of future bass at the other end of the aircraft hangar.
Ending the night – and the festival – on a suitably bonkers note, London’s most exciting label and party crew Night Slugs hold court at a fairground in one of the halls. Label chiefs L-Vis 1990 and Bok Bok spin ominous future house sounds as they survey their temporary kingdom of dodgems and flashing, garish lights. Just more proof that this has been the most outlandish Sónar yet – and also the best.