Shrouded in mystery – talk of ethereal sounds and ambient all-night adventures – Experiment Intrinsic was on the lips of many of my most musically engaged friends. Far from the weekend warriors, these were the calibre of character who dance in the centre of the Venn diagram of art, culture, and esotericism; audiophiles, artists and fanatics alike. Despite containing little concrete information, fractured perspectives on the fabled three-day festival thrown last year left me decidedly excited, yet naively unsure what to expect. Being a fan of ambient, experimental, and ultimately introspective music, I have found it’s very scarcely represented in the London scene. The chill out rooms have faded away as the club spaces come under threat and the nights truly dedicated are few and far between; was this limited capacity, alcohol free event the entrance to the scene I have been searching for?
I enter the space, something shudders – intrinsic – what does that mean? Oxford says “Belonging naturally; essential” but I instantly questioned that… intrinsic? Do we live by the dictionary? What does this mean? Intrinsic music? Music is intrinsic? With the idea of the law of vibration I guess, but experiment intrinsic? I didn’t know and didn’t stop to dwell… a sudden wave like I’d never known flowed through, settling and comforting, yet exciting. The space fully saturated in spiritual aura, from the stepping foot inside you could instantly feel the emotional energy and power which has flown through it, leaving a mark for others to feel throughout time; a perfect location for such an in-depth and emotional listening experience.
Moving in around midnight I found my way to one of the many beanbag and blanket combos laid all around the grand hall; not that the blanket was needed as I ran hot and the space was already brimming with welcoming and warming energy. Greeted with vaporwave-esque spinning Greek statues and rolling waves projected at every angle, soundtracked by a soothing live violin. As the luscious sounds of Katabasis soaked into me, I instantly felt the grandiosity of the night to come. He bowed, plucked and made sounds on the violin in all manner of ways imaginable, then looped over mellow beats and bass notes. I’d never seen a violin used in such avant-garde, dexterous and resourceful way. Positioned dead centre of the space it was easy to affix all my attention, complimented with the increasing swell of the projections above. A harmonious and gentle introduction to the trip – doing as any good trip should – easing you in gently.
On an evening so heavily focused on deep introspection and meditation on sound, the quality was of paramount importance. A custom 360 degree Funktion One system was provided by Sova Audio, named Kosmos after the Greek view of the universe, a perfectly aligned yet complex and complimentary system. I initially thought this seemed rather grandiose for a sound system, however those thoughts were quickly abolished by the rich textures amplified and resonated around the room. Main-stayed by four F1 stacks in each corner, supplemented by an array of home surround sound-style (also Funktion One) satellite speakers, which I later found out made up the “360 channel”, controlled independently and allowing a selection of different panning options to project the sound in ways I’ve not experienced in a musical setting. The resulting 8-point system allowed the artists to layer over the top of the traditional “bed” of sound, creating truly multidimensional immersive soundscapes.
The gradual waft of ceremonial palo santo bark brought around a feeling of primitivity to the senses – familiar, yet exotic – bringing in the sounds of Melina Serser with very organic, tropical scenes. Vast expanses of jungle and tropical climate were breezing past beneath and above; swaying upon a tree top with parakeets chirping all around. This transition was also met visually with some larger than life projections of said tropical birds over the domed ceiling. The Uruguayan DJ’s style of natural ambience, combined with the perfect matching of visual stimulation was truly transportive for me, taking me not deep within myself, but far out to parts of the world I have not been, yet felt like I now knew so well. It makes perfect sense that her mixes’ self-stated intent are ‘to create a non-mental, trippy, positive-vibed mix that generates different feelings, intensities, and moods’, along with percussion intended to ‘remind us of our roots’.
Meandering down the tropical river, the current suddenly takes a sharp turn down a mysterious side stream with trees covering the skyline. It becomes very dark. Obscure knocks, cracks and swirls dart my attention all over the place as you see – at least you think – movement in the trees. Drip, drip, drop something splashes down my neck from overhead as the skyline is almost completely closed in now with overgrowth. I can’t quite picture what – or where – I recognise, it’s always changing? The acoustics change, aquatic noises start to echo as the sound of Baby Vulture soaks in. Known for an almost archaeological approach to digging, she arranges vastly different fragments of undiscovered sound into incredible, transportive tapestries. These sequenced and overlaid to create her own intricate sonic and sensorial universe.
Now, a journey into the underbelly, a darker space. Hollow wood knocks echo around. Is anyone there? Abstract, tormented groans warp and morph in similar fashion. Scratches and whines above initially quite jarring; and then personal. Is this me? Trying to get in? Or out? A slow melancholic 50s piano begins to play, I’m drawn deep inside sepia-tinted visions of childhood. As a typewriter gradually types keys of retrospective sadness I explore some repressed trauma. Slowly lifted with a drum beat splayed across an impressive spread of hand-struck skinned instrumentation. Finally met with elongated flutes – bringing people to sit up all around the room – as though Baby Vultures is calling you awake into her world; so soft and simple yet deeply satisfying. At this point I am back, wide eyed in the space and met with a beautiful silhouette of a ballet dancer looping effortlessly and seemingly endlessly; she is dancing around so harmoniously with the sound that I’m lost track in her movements. The transition out of this space is far more ceremonious then the entrance, a resounding ohm note sung deep from the throat transcends into full reverberation around the room, shaking the whole space with the full force of Kosmos.
E/Tape took the sound even darker into shamanic realms of cosmic energy, melding together multi-cultural voiceovers into a spherical soundscape; almost as though you were directly tapped into Earth’s communication centre. There were such a contrast of languages and situations in earshot – hailing from all around the globe – it evoked feelings of a mysterious omnipresence. Everything that was happening felt like it was travelling through this one hub, and reinforced feelings of ever-connected physiological, emotional, and technological networks. As the world currently is not a perfect utopia, more unsavoury transmissions came through. I distinctly remember what sounded like an Asian torture scene which sent shudders through me, and actually became quite terrifying as the clarity and depth of the sound transported me there. Although being in a loving space and feeling perfectly safe, at this point I had to excuse myself to let my mind relax a little. Lurking, chatting outside for probably too long I entered back into a powerful Kendrick Lamar monologue and found comfort in the familiarity.
Taking time out to recollect myself from such an epic transportation, I re-entered as Gyorgy Ono was setting up. A moniker of Georgio Oniani, a favourite artist of mine known for his legendary Creatures parties and diverse genre-spanning dance sets, as ecstatic and eclectic as they’re intense, often erratic. I was instantly struck by the deft use of Kosmos, devilled alien creatures snarled and snivelled around the room against the backdrop of a gentle gong. Drawing closer – almost in your ear now – I reach for the blanket as a layer of comfort, unsure what to expect. Gurgles, pops and hisses underlaying distant groans of pleasure and songs of sorrow, a 4-4 type thud draws in as shards of shrapnel and precious material glisten and twinkle in the sound. Fragments and sonic extractions are layered and looped – re-contextualised – into this new soundscape, giving new life to the archaic. A timelessness is present throughout the sound, these aren’t just old soundbites rehashed, they’re frequencies outside of time itself; far removed from even the concept.
As the creatures are back gnargling with greater intensity, an incredibly grand and ornate piece of music comes in – almost sounding like it’s made of gold, the whole room seems to turn that colour – regale sitars bring far eastern energy into the space. New life synths sing high, building pressure into a break-beat anticlimax, sounding like every one of these manic beats came from a different piece of raw metal, not a drum kit, every note sounded unique and innocent; truly captivating. With a succession of some of the most intricate and detailed music that had ever hit me – a vision – these alien creatures have seemingly found humanity’s musical archives and are exploring some of the most powerful music ever created; absolute tones — relics — which have been safely secured for centuries, are now being unleashed once again. I felt such a wave of appreciation and awe in hearing these sounds, many of which left me lost for words and with tears in my eyes, for how else was I going to experience this without the gremlins uncovering them?
It’s hard to fully re-imagine the feelings that Experiment Intrinsic made me feel. The whole evening was a melting pot of pure passion, appreciation, and sonic vibration. The crowd were some of the most interesting, unassuming, and gentle people I have been around in a long time. The attention to detail of the sound far exceeds anything I have experienced before and given me a benchmark for just how good things can sound, and how deep the experience can go. The journey and sequence of artists gave a real narrative to the night and allowed me to delve deep into many cosmic reverberations of the sound and pulses of my own being. If any of this sounds of interest to you, all I can do is urge you to venture to an experiment yourself. Intrinsic returns to Hackney, London on September the 15th and November the 17th, 2018, check out their website here.
Words – Edward Keef