Five stars of British electronica

With artist Antony Gormley and the Cultura Inglesa festival helping British culture dominate the city during May 2012, freshen up on the stars of UK garage, drum and bass and dubstep playing Sónar on 11-12 May

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After an eight-year hiatus, Sónar, the electronic music festival from Barcelona, is returning to São Paulo. And this time it will be opening its doors to 50,000 music fans – more than twice as many as attended in 2004.

International stars such as CeeLo Green appear on the same bill as local acts like DJs Marky and Patife, who have helped shape the history of electronic music since the late-1990s. But with no less than ten British acts on the bill, Sónar São Paulo is playing its part in this month’s British invasion, bringing Brazil a taste of genres like UK garage, dubstep, and drum and bass.

‘Britain has always been at the forefront of electronic music,’ says Chico Dub, in charge of booking artists for the festival, ‘and this is the first time so many big electronic music acts will perform at the same time in São Paulo.’

Four Tet is one to watch, but according to one of the organisers, Marcos Boffa, the English producer Squarepusher looks like being one of the standouts. ‘He’s really important to the history of electronic music,’ says Boffa, ‘and his latest album is taking him back to his roots, so I think he’s going to be one of the big surprises of the festival.’

Read on for our pick of the Brits appearing at Sónar São Paulo – and if you can’t make it to the festival, check out their sounds via the links. 


Moving away from electronic music, the experimental group Mogwai comes from an earlier generation of Glasgow musicians. Inventors of their own brand of brooding and sometimes austere post-rock, the band has made seven albums including the soundtrack to the 2006 film Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait.

 Hudson Mohawke

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The psychedelic hip hop producer from Glasgow became a pioneer of the new ‘Glasgow sound’ with the release of his debut album, Butter, in 2009. The record’s euphoric and often futuristic sound attracted the attention of the controversial R&B singer Chris Brown, who reworked the track ‘Rising 5’ on his track ‘Real Hip Hop Shit #2’. Hudson Mohawke’s 2011 album, Satin Panthers, won rave reviews from critics and fans alike, one of whom was Jay Z producer Just Blaze, who tweeted, ‘These are the chords I hear in my dreams.’


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Skream is a pioneer of dubstep, one of the most important genres in UK dance music, which incorporates the two-step drum patterns of UK garage with the wobble bass of dub reggae. He’s one of the scene’s big names, and a member of Magnetic Man, whose MC Sgt Pokes will be appearing with him at the festival. 


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Squarepusher’s most commercial hit to date, 2001’s ‘My Red Hot Car’, earned him comparisons with Daft Punk. But for his 15th album, Ufabulum, he says he is returning to pure electronic music – both melodic and aggressive. The prodigious bass guitar player from Essex in England, who also heads up the band Shobaleader One, appears to be able to play just about any instrument he turns his hand to, and often does; but since the mid-1990s he has found himself most famous for his sublimely erratic acid-jazz-influenced drum and bass. 

James Blake

The melancholic singer-songwriter has been lauded as the first dubstep artist to cross over to the mainstream. The stark production of his self-titled debut album earned him a top 10 in the UK album chart in 2011. At Sónar, assess Blake’s talent for yourself in both his guises, as he’ll be DJing on Saturday and playing a live show on Sunday. 

Sónar São Paulo takes place on 11-12 May at Parque Anhembi. See

By Tom Allsop


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