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Sónar describes itself as “the festival of advanced music and multimedia art…a carefully assembled range of culture that combines entertainment with artistry.” In that case, the electro supergroup Mostly Robot should be its poster child.
Native Instruments, the electronic music software and gadgets company, has assembled five of its endorsed artists for this world premiere live show. Add renowned Berlin-based design collective Pfadfinderei into the mix, and you have a show that will truly be a sight to be seen.
Some musicians argue that when computers replace guitars and pianos, it’s no longer ‘music’. In the traditional sense, maybe not—but there’s a time and a place for tradition, and it’s definitely not Sónar. What is exciting about the Mostly Robot show is that there will be no pre-programming and no use of MIDI grids. If you’re scratching your head, hang tight. This means that while the performers will be using complex technological tools to get their sound and images across, the ‘in the moment’ performance aspect of the show will be the same as you’d find in a performance by any jazz ensemble, symphony or punk band. And Pfadfinderei (which means ‘pathfinders’) will let you see it all in brilliant colour. You’ll be able to follow the notes with your ears as well as your eyes, courtesy of Native Instruments’ advanced technology.
But wait, there’s more. All the Mostly Robot guys have intriguing bios in their own right:
DJ Shiftee hails from New York City. He is not only the youngest holder of the DMC World DJ Championships title, he also has a degree from Harvard and an NYU adjunct professorship. In contrast, Tim Exile is a classically trained violinist. He has a Philosophy degree and an MA in Electroacoustic Composition from Durham University. His live performances have become increasingly experimental, which led to a 2009 tour with ever-innovative digital diva Imogen Heap.
Jamie Lidell is a British vocalist who started out as the heir-apparent to Little Richard, but took a left turn with his talent for beat boxing and use of cutting-edge technology to manipulate his voice. His interest in combining and crossing genres has led to collaborations with numerous artists, including Feist and Beck. He’s accompanied here by ‘keyboard wizard’ Mr Jimmy, who has a penchant for performing wild-haired and often shirtless.
Finally, Jeremy Ellis started out as a keyboard player in the clubs of Detroit. These days his freakishly fast fingers can be seen on YouTube, demonstrating Native Instrument’s ‘Maschine’.
The roots of visual artists Pfadfinderei are in VJ-ing and vector-based design, but they’ve done everything from corporate campaigns for Nike and Mini to live music projects like this one. The Pfadfinderei team at Sónar will receive digital input in the form of note and controller events created by each musician onstage to generate graphics. In other words, each time one of the guys hits a button, it will produce an image that will be projected on the big screens in front of you. Think flashing lights, Greek gods, tightrope walkers and space travel.
There has been a lot of hype about this particular performance. To quote the bio on the website of Jeremy Ellis: “No one has spoken so eloquently through music alone since Mozart or Miles Davis.” Now, I’m not entirely sure what that even means and I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether the Robot group are on a par with those particular legends, but I would agree that of all the acts at Sónar 2012, this is the one you won’t want to miss.
Mostly Robot will play during the day on Thursday 14th (time TBA). www.sonar.es
Tori Sparks is a Barcelona-based musician and writer. Find out more at: www.torisparks.com