From Manchester to: Nuits Sonores

A pulsating crutch hangs in the air, the last remnants of grey daylight pass through dusty slotted windows. Lyon's mask has certainly slipped now. Croissants for breakfast and a crisp vin blanc on the dancefloor offered proceedings an air of respectability, but things descend quickly here, too.

By Tim Alderson | Last updated 7 June 2018

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As KiNK’s four hour barrage of acid, raw percussion and thumping garage riles the locals up in to a frenzy, Le Sucre has proven itself one of the most electrifying venues in Europe. Beguiling balcony forest vistas and an enveloping sound system that traps all entrants in its grasp make for something the Lyonnais are rightfully proud of, and it’s kept us enthralled all weekend.

The last few days we’ve been partying at Nuits Sonores, a multi-venue, city-based shindig that’s been bringing its own brand of eclectic electronic artists to eastern France for the last 15 years. Urbanised sessions such as this can often miss those quintessential festival moments; extended sunsets soundtracked, over excited punters perched precariously on shoulders whilst unidentified booze sprays through the air on to a sea of bucket hats – nothings been lost here, though.

Things kicked off for us when we landed Thursday afternoon, and with the event already a few days in we had some catching up to do. Most of the week’s events occurred on The Confluence, a stretch of land which snakes down between the city’s two rivers, the Rhone and Soane, so we crossed over and started exploring. After dropping in at Periscope, an intimate back street bar worth queuing to enter, for the cosmic pop of JAKAM, we converged on Le Sucre, which would be the scene for a good proportion of our haziest highlights over the course the weekend. Life of Marvin warmed things up and finished our first night nicely with a varied set that promised much but slowly veered off towards the time to call a taxi.

On Friday we made a quick return. Despite the postcard blue skies outside, Karen Gwyer drew all in for a stepping set of melancholic, crunching electro that proved the perfect precursor for things to come. The daylight was closed out nicely moving between Floating Points and Four Tet. Both British artists are held in good regard here; the former named a track after his experience at a previous Nuits Sonores, whilst the other had curated that day’s programming.

Things moved across town after dark to the expansive, industrial surrounds of Anciennes Usines Fagor-Brandt. Getting lost was easy, amongst some twelve thousand revellers, but finding impressive production was equally effortless. The wild, jazzy ramblings of Israeli double act, Red Axes, were well worth stumbling along to, before Lee Gamble brought his live audio visual jungle onslaught to the party. Phone batteries and pocket money were long since spent by the time Kerri Chandler and Jeremy Underground closed things down.

If anyone had the intention of starting slowly on Saturday, then no one told Rroxymore. The France-born techno selector seemed intent on impressing her home crowd with a fast paced, genre-bending set. Following that, the intense and somewhat surreal rave music of Aisha Devi offered some sort of respite, I think.

Her vocals sit in a place somewhere between soothing and distressing, but you certainly can’t take your eyes or ears off it. The day’s bill was brought to its end by one of the most reliable in the business, DJ Stingray, clad in his trademark black balaclava he thumped a path through two hours of oscillating electro as darkness fell.

Later we swerved the main event to check out a Ransom Note hosted party and it paid off. Musically it was arguably the peak of my weekend, the line up comprised three local acts – Sentiments, The Pilotwings and Macadam Mambo DJs – each almost felt out to prove a point about the health of the scene here. I can’t say exactly what went on in there but we left well impressed.

Our final outing saw the weather turn and celebrations move inside. Drizzle made getting stuck in to the aforementioned masterclass from KiNK all the more tempting. The Bulgarian artist’s live sets are fast becoming legendary and his delirious rhythms, synths and samples cultivated one of wildest floors seen all week.

Attention turned slowly to the festival’s denouement though, and Laurent Garnier was busy shutting it down, downstairs. I’m struggling to remember an audience anywhere outside a football ground quite as loud as the hero’s welcome dished out for the Frenchman as he hammered home with an anthemic performance.

A fitting end to a week high on quality, with crowds more than ready to take full advantage. It’s difficult to see where Nuits Sonores could better an impeccable program in such stunning surrounds. Lyon is a brilliantly vibrant city with a festival that more than lives up to its fast growing reputation, see you there next year?