A six-day bender or an easygoing holiday in one of Europe's most beautiful cities? Rave till dawn or catch some of the world's best DJs while the sun is still out? However you approach Nuits Sonores, which last week celebrated its 16th edition, you're likely to find that it's among the best festivals around.
Spread across the picturesque city of Lyon, the week-long event covers all shades of house and techno, played by a cast of familiar veterans and exciting breakout acts. Four artists—Jennifer Cardini, Four Tet, Paula Temple and Daniel Avery—took on the role of guest curators in 2018, programming one day each at La Sucrière. The former sugar factory, which is also home to the rooftop club Le Sucre, hosted most of the action, though there were parties in all corners of the city. This meant you could listen to Jamie Tiller & Tako spin sun-kissed disco at a historic pool or catch Parrish Smith hammering out techno and jungle at an open-air close to Interpol's HQ. As always with Nuits Sonores, there was lots to choose from.
Here are five key performances from this year's edition.
Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft
A few minutes before DAF appeared onstage at Le Sucre on the opening night of Nuits Sonores, a technician placed six large bottles of water at the foot of the microphone. One hour later, they were empty, poured over the crowd by the duo's hyperactive frontman, Gabi Delgado-Lopez. A pioneering EBM and industrial band that has influenced artists ranging from Marcel Dettmann to Nitzer Ebb, DAF were a great choice to close the club on Tuesday, playing to an older crowd than the one dancing to DJs like Maceo Plex at La Sucrière below. The mood was high for most of their set, especially when they played "Der Mussolini," a Hitler-referencing single they've been performing for almost 30 years. One of the oldest acts on the bill, DAF literally had the floor shaking.
Tropic Of Cancer
Where DAF had people jumping up and down in Le Sucre, two days later Tropic Of Cancer had them swaying from side to side. Wearing matching pink suits, Camella Lobo and an accompanying bassist ran through some of the project's best-known cuts, including the haunting "A Color," released in 2011. Tropic Of Cancer charm with sombre tones and introspective melodies, while energising the crowd with the occasional rhythm track. For many, Nuits Sonores is about big tunes and jacking drums. Tropic Of Cancer showed there are softer ways to dazzle a crowd.
Dr. Rubinstein's slamming techno and acid may have seemed at odds with the sunny atmosphere at La Sucrière's outdoor stage, but that didn't stop the Berlin-based DJ from letting loose a string of hard-hitting bombs to open her set on Thursday. Taking over from Lena Willikens with a moody electro track, she soon dipped into the hundreds of swinging bangers on her USBs, blending them with slick transitions that kept the energy high. Techno and acid with a hint of trance, Dr. Rubinstein was impossible to resist.
Four Tet's live set on Friday started with a faint, high-pitched pulse. As the room filled, the sound built into the familiar groove and plucked strings of "Planet," a track from his 2017 album. After a few minutes, the groove switched and the mood became celestial, with the strings and hip-hop beat of "Two Thousand And Seventeen." The rest of the set was full of shifts like this, as he brought the energy up and down with each track. The sequencing felt more like a concert than a typical house or techno live set, with moments of ambience between tracks and frequent changes in mood. Rather than layering elements of each song over a steady groove, he seemed to play each tune in full, rewarding the fans of his last few albums. The room stayed packed until the closing cut, "Locked," an upbeat finish to a touching performance.
In the early stages of Paula Temple's set in the massive indoor part of La Sucrière on Saturday, the beat dropped out. A beam of trance chords overtook the mix, sending in rays of light while creating a dizzying moment of tension. Once the kick drum slammed back in, the subsequent cheers were almost louder than the music. Temple's set was full of moments like this, where unexpected breakdowns or crafty shifts in rhythm lit up the dance floor. This was mostly down to her unique approach to DJing—an Ableton-driven setup allows her to remix tracks on the fly. Where most techno sets follow a linear pattern, hers dart all over the place, changing the kick often while layering vocals and other effects . At her best, she makes traditional DJing feel one-dimensional.
Photo credit /
Laurie Diaz - DAF, Tropic Of Cancer, Four Tet, Folamour, Soul Train
Tony Noël - Dr. Rubinstein
Gaétan Clement - Paula Temple
Brice Robert - La Sucrière, Helena Hauff,
Marion Bornaz - Two women, Child