22 sublime sonic experiences you absolutely cannot miss at Wonderfruit
Wonderfruit 2019 is a clarion call to music lovers, a celebration of sustainability, and an all-out avant-garde extravaganza
It's the most Wonderful time of the year — Wonderfruit season is well underway with just one month until The Fields come alive. Six editions later, the now five-day festival has etched its way into the upper echelons of global music experiences after redefining the corridors of what a music festival ought to be. Music aside, the achingly pretty festival grounds come wrapped in the expansive splendor of ruminative art installations, sustainably designed stages, forward-thinking tastes and tipples, and spellbinding sunsets — altogether cementing the festival as the definitive portal to Thailand's vibrant culture.
Arguably Asia's most impeccably curated festival, Wonderfruit has a unique approach to music and continues to deliver a vanguard of masterful musicians to Thailand year after year. And year after year, it overturns any preconceived notions people might have about its more obscure programming. This incarnation, however, might be a selection of their most extraordinary selectors yet with 524 far-left maestros making up the majority of the line-up. If you don't recognize some of the names on the bill, good — that's intentional. Explore, enlighten, and educate. We've said this before (and we'll say it again): if you're only thinking about big names, you're not thinking big enough. But to help make the Wonderfruit 2019 line-up a little more digestible, here is a shortlist of highlights that you absolutely can't fucking miss.
Thursday: The unofficial opening extravaganza
Calling all music heads! Thursday night at Neramit will see a sonic deluge of electronic music DJs playing everything but dance music, a blissed-out juxtaposition to the rest of the weekend. Artists like Que Sakamoto, Michael Yumé and Craig Richards are all carefully curating performances that will run the gamut from 70s to 80s psychedelic rock, dub, soul, new wave, post-punk, disco and more. The digging for unknown vinyl started months ago, with an emphasis on searching for special sounds and hidden gems. A showcase by the UKNWN collective from Manilla is also on the agenda to help ease Wonderers into the weekend.
Friday: Colleen 'Cosmo' Murphy as part of the GO GRRRLS takeover of Forbidden Fruit
GO GRRRLS welcomes friends, lovers and strangers alike to God Save The Queer, a liberating evening where freedom, expression, and love is on the soundtrack (alongside anything from David Bowie, Grimes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs to The Knife). Their LGBTQ-friendly party at Forbidden Fruit will offer something a little extra to Wonderers this year, and that’s especially the case if we count a performance by Colleen ‘Cosmo’ Murphy. A mainstay at The Loft by David Mancuso in New York throughout the 70s and 80s, today she is a highly respected and experienced musical selector and curator who encourage aficionados to enjoy the finer details and synchronicities of music. Also joining the extravaganza are the heady Amazon Sun troupe, who are hosting a Vogue ball with Bangkok burlesque phenomenon Madame Rouge MCing the affair in case anyone is interested in living out a Paris is burning fantasy.
Friday: Gidge at the Solar Stage
Envision the north of Sweden: chilling, eerie and dark, and a place for introspection and solitude rather than anything jovial, but hauntingly beautiful nonetheless. Encapsulate this into a sound, weaved in dark chords, ethereal beats and ambient soundscapes, and you have the sound of Gidge. With the woods of the north as their inspiration, this mesmerising Swedish duo mix electronic music and organic elements with melancholic vocal samples and warm, fuzzy chord progressions that transport you to a faraway place somewhere in the unknown corners of the cosmos. Don’t worry about them being too downtempo; the pair have previously lived in Berlin, apparent through the bass that they bring. Billed initially to play last year but dropped out due to scheduling, they were quickly invited back probably for their reputation of delivering performances that are immersive, emotive and hypnotising.
Friday (and Sunday): ZudRangMa Records takeover at Neramit
The go-to destination for vinyl junkies looking for Thai funk, also known as molam, ZudRangMa is a small record shop in Bangkok. Through his band called The Paradise Bangkok Molam International Band, which is at the top of our not-to-miss list for culture-seekers, the owner is revitalising the retro sound of old-school Thai music, and through gigs like Wonderfruit, ZudRangMa brings a little slice of their eclectic ethos to The Fields. With headliners like GUTS adding a dash of experimental and sunny vibrations and Frankie Francis (Sofrito) who brings with him a love of old African and Caribbean music, on this night Neramit will offer a refuge free from electronic music tucked under the trees of a lofty bamboo pavilion.
Friday: Beardyman at the Creature Stage
We love a good bio, and Beardyman’s reads: 2x beatbox champion, king of sound, ruler of beats and destroyer of dance-floors. We’ve read several other variations that pin him as a vocal shaman, musical mastermind and….a comedian? Known for producing the sounds and rhythms of entire musical tracks using only his mouth and weaving humour in with his musical performances, Beardyman’s gone from Internet phenomenon to selling out comedy shows and winning beatboxing championships with his ever-growing arsenal of cutting edge talents. Enough said. Plus, we love a man who doesn’t take himself too seriously.
Saturday: A sunrise set by Floating Points at the Solar Stage
Veteran Wonderers know that one of the most coveted performances at Wonderfruit is sunrise at the Solar Stage and this year one of the slots has been awarded to Floating Points, who is is arguably one of Wonderfruit’s most lauded bookings for 2019. It gets better, Wonderfruit isn’t fucking around and has confirmed the English electronic musician to play an extended 3.5-hour set. Belonging to a class of performers reserved for the upper echelon of music, the artist (and neuroscientist) is known for producing visceral and cerebral sounding compilations of music that are an intricate exploration of electronic music soundscapes. Braces yourself for one of those performances that Wonderers won’t let go of for years to come.
Saturday: An Ed Banger takeover of Forbidden Fruit
If you don’t know who Ed Banger are, you might not know how epic this takeover is, so allow us to enlighten you. The ultra iconic French DJ collective was founded by Busy P (Daft Punk’s former manager) in 2003 and dominated dance music for the years that followed. In 2007, when Justice released † and electro was enjoying its heyday, the words Ed Banger were on the mouths of every cool kid who’d ever been to a rave. Still going strong from Paris, the label has since been closely affiliated with names like Mr. Ozio, SebastiAn, Breakbot, Feadz, So Me and more. On Saturday night, Ed Banger will take over Wonderfruit’s beautiful bamboo boudoir with Busy P himself playing alongside Breakbot & Irfane, Myd and Yasmin under the sultry red lights that have become synonymous with the decadent dance destination. Party plus: Forbidden Fruit will be fit out with the new Pioneer sound system imported from Japan, a first in Thailand.
Saturday: Rival Consoles at the Theatre Stage
Nick Luscombe’s global sound and art project arrives in The Fields this year but not before spending time in Bangkok recording and interpreting the city’s landmarks. The artists performing at Musicity have warped those sounds into live performances that will unfold at the Theatre Stage, sharing their sonic interpretations in a hugely cinematic performance. Of a long list of experimental artists from the Erased Tapes roster, one to watch is Rival Consoles, who “makes high-brow, avant-garde electronic music in the vein of Jon Hopkins and Nils Frahm.” Simply put, he is notable for making synthesisers sound human and atmospheric.
Saturday: Daddy G at the Solar Stage
You know, like from Massive Attack. Worthy of legend status, Massive Attack founding member Daddy G will descend upon The Fields to deliver an eclectic and ever-changing DJ set that we can only hope will be based upon the experimental music that pioneered the Bristol sound of the 90s. Or at least the music that has been fueling this legend since the 80s because he’s known for being the kind of DJ who simply enjoys playing their favourite records. Whatever he plays, you’ll be dancing in the presence of greatness.
Saturday: Matanza's new live performance at Polygon
Trust me, you've heard Matanza before. I serendipitously stumbled upon Matanza when YouTube queued them up following Nicola Cruz's Boiler Room showcase in Tulum, and recognised a lot of the music that Cruz himself played, but live. The South American tribal tech house band intersects acoustic instruments with synthesisers, electronic beats, and Colombian charangos and quenas. At Wonderfruit, they will debut an all-new live performance that's being touted as "a spectacle of rhythmic prowess, set against a tech house sound and the pounding folk music of their indigenous cultural heritage."
Saturday: A DJ set by Chromeo at Neramit
Aptly renamed House of the Unholy+Holy for one evening, Neramit has locked down super fly Canadian duo Chromeo to kick start the unholiness. Bringing electro-funk to dance floors since the Montreal-based dream team burst onto the scene with ‘She’s In Control’ in 2004, followed by ‘Fancy Footwork’ in 2007, Chromeo hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down. Today they are up to album number five, always winning the hearts of spirited party-goers all over the world with their upbeat melodies and catchy lyrics. Taking cues from Prince and Daft Punk, their sets are in equal parts heart-thrilling, party-rocking and club-banging. Vive le Chromeo!
Saturday: An actual ritual at House Of The Unholy+Holy
Drawing influence from Alejandro Jodorowsky, Federico Fellini, Salvador Dalí, Daft Punk, Dune and Asian culture, House Of The Unholy+Holy is a surreal cinematic experience for adults that is both hauntingly beautiful and chillingly bizarre. The immersive theatrical performance was birthed from a sci-fi fantasy short film written and directed by industry legend Daniel Merlot, which he shot earlier this year in Bangkok. A polymath and all-around renaissance man, Merlot made his directorial debut last year with 65-year-old Emiko Shibamura’s viral music video which has been described as a “blast of insanity”. The Wonderfruit incarnation, or inmaculate conception, is co-curated by the almost mythical Swamy, who is a longtime friend and collaborator of Merlot’s. Together with 12 performers, they will step deep into the archetypes of their respective roles to bring a small slice of that same insanity to The Fields for a kitschy and decadent midnight performance soundtracked by dystopian ceremonial electronic music.
Saturday: DJ Garth playing a four-hour set at Neramit
San Fransisco is credited with churning out a lot of really good talent over the years: Miguel Migs, DJ Shadow, Mark Farina, Nick Monaco, Claude Vonstroke, and more. Well, DJ Garth is credited with both defining and capturing the sound of San Francisco house music in the mid-90s — essentially putting The Bay on the music map. He also brought the UK's sound system culture to San Fransisco in 1991 and cemented acid house in the city at the same time. His legendary Wicked Sound System was also the pioneering sound system at Burning Man in 1995. A DJs DJ, Garth is still going strong — so strong that he's playing a five-hour set at Wonderfruit (as he should be).
Saturday: Voilaaa Sound System at Omelette Stage
Fluffy like an Omelette and often made with unexpected combinations is the idea behind Wonderfruit’s newest addition to The Fields. The only thing that we can promise about Omelette is that it will offer a glittering soundtrack of colourful grooves playing out of the brand new Funktion 1 Evo 7. Make sure to catch Voilaaa Sound System, an African funk and disco project that is widely known for veering down unusual musical paths and are rumoured to deliver a live performance that is hailed as one of the best in the world when it comes to tropical vibes. Stick around for Aroop Roy, a Potato Head takeover, and more flavours that are all served over-easy and with extra toppings — who knows what will happen.
Sunday: A sunrise set by Acid Pauli at Solar Stage
Berlin-based Acid Pauli is, much like his name suggests, known for performances that are psychedelic, adventurous and full of musicality. A master architect of a journey that intersects mood and melancholia, the aesthetic of Acid Pauli’s music is free from the conventions that you’d expect to hear from electronic music. Blissed out and left-field, Acid Pauli’s addition to the Solar Stage programme is a welcome one, and for 3.5 hours he will immerse Wonderers into the wonderful and wacky world of Acid Pauli.
Sunday: A late-night set by Four Tet and Antal at Solar Stage
Another artist deserving of legend status, Four Tet is a polymath musician that produces intelligent music for intelligent people. The must-see musical craftsman composes ambient, paradisiacal and pulsating electronica that digs deep into the pockets of electronic music that rarely see much airtime, yet remains bangin’ enough for a dance floor. His live show has been hailed by many as the best they’ve ever seen, and while we aren’t being treated to that at Wonderfruit, we are being blessed with 3.5 hours of syncopated harmony followed by Antal at the Solar Stage, an experience that lets artists explore their own musical spectrum to the fullest and deliver a performance that they might not be able to elsewhere. We are humbly aware that seeing Four Tet in this setting is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and are prepared to have our mind blown.
Sunday: A daytime party at the Quarry
Sunday, you read right. Collisions returns to the Quarry as an experience curated by Craig Richards and also as the de facto late night dance destination. This year it will also become the de facto day time dance destination for one afternoon, too — the party starts at noon on Sunday before finishing at 6pm. But Friday and Saturday are still full-on, with Richards upping the ante on his programming by booking Bobby Pleasure, Nick The Record, Felix Dickinson, Miss Powder and more. With his ear also turned on to the local underground scene, Richards has tapped local rising talent DOTT as part of his mostly-vinyl Saturday night schedule. But here’s where it gets interesting, Richards has decided not to announce any set times in an effort to get people to focus on the music and not the DJ. You never know with this guy, he might even hide the DJ booth. The only thing you can be sure of is that the Quarry will remit more multi-genre sounds than ever. Rave on!
Sunday: Viken Armen b2b Be Svendsen LIVE at Polygon
This one's for the burners. While both Be Svendsen and Viken Armen are playing solo sets at Polygon on Friday and Saturday respectively (don't miss them too), on Sunday evening they will join together to push the boundaries of anything they've ever done before. Taking full advantage of an upgraded 3D spatialised sound system, the Burning Man regulars will reimagine the sounds of the Playa as an experimental multi-sensory sound experience bolstered by immersive multi-sensory technology and the world's most advanced digital pyrotechnics.
Sunday: Saro’s beat making, mixing, and vocal performance at SOT
There’s always someone that asks ‘where’s the hip-hop at?’ and we don’t necessarily have an answer to that. What we can do is tell them to find SOT, which won’t be hard since it’s the biggest and loudest stage on-site (strange, that), pumping out party-starting rap and hip-hop while serving up some of the best food in The Fields. Friday will see Def Jam takeover and Saturday is reserved for a Red Bull 3style showcase. But the real showdown happens Sunday when Saro, 26-year-old French winner of the 2018 Beatbox World Championship, unleashes his victorious take on trap, electro-pop and bass music by beatboxing his way through it. Saro is known to breaks the standards of the discipline and takes it to another dimension.
Sunday: The Rainbow Disco Club takeover at Forbidden Fruit
I’ve never been to a festival in Japan, but if I did, I would go straight to Rainbow Disco Club. Not just for its reputation as being one of the most idyllic festivals in Japan, but also because they consistently book an all-star cast of dance music luminaries, so it's fitting that the collective is lauded as Japan’s dance music pot of gold. Rainbow Disco Club regulars like Kikiorix and Sisi are on the bill alongside Parisian-born Raphaël Top Secret, who probably got his name for his ability to discover obscure party hits, and “one of London’s best kept secrets” John Gomez, who will altogether provide the soundtrack for all the dancing, romancing and prancing that Sundays at the beautiful boudoir are known for.
Monday: La Mamie’s closing out the Solar Stage b2b with Camion Bazar for five raucous hours
Free and uninhibited are words often used to describe French DJ collective La Mamie's. And after they dropped 2 Unlimited’s ‘Twilight Zone’ during a Boiler Room showcase at Shi Fu Miz Festival in Hong Kong last month while an actual mosh pit unfurl around them, and I made a mental note to catch them again for more free and uninhibited party power. Since evolving into a five-day affair, Monday mornings at Wonderfruit have taken on a special kind of vibe reserved for those who aren’t ready to say goodbye to The Fields. La Mamie’s promise to offer those diehards plenty of ‘one more song’ moments when they play b2b with Camion Baza for FIVE HOURS — we recommend changing your checkout to Tuesday.
Everyday: A daily sound and light bath at Polygon
Not your typical performance but if state-of-the-art sound, immersive experiences and holistic wellness excite you, then head to Polygon for a daily dose of Earth Echo. The sound healing project is co-created by designers, engineers, visual artists and sound healers who have collaborated on artistic audio and visual content around a central theme of ecological conservation, bringing about altered states of awareness from deep within our inner worlds. In short, it's a sound and light bath that will unfold under Polygon's 360º dome. Not just for dancing, the space doubles as a meditation zone where attendees can sit or lie down to experience a journey that combines healing scent dispersion, powerful ancient healing tools, spatialised vocals and carefully curated animal and wildlife sounds that are "chosen for their potential to trigger ancient memories, emotions and sensations; flooding the audiences' senses, allowing them to feel the reality of nature within and without."
Wonderfruit 2019 takes places in The Fields at Siam Country Club from December 12-16. Tickets are available here.