Published on: zweikommasieben
Surrounded - Gaika, TCF and Ioann at MONOM Berlin
The 4DSOUND spatial sound system, that recently was installed at Berlin’s MONOM, got tested during CTM Festival by Gaika, TCF, and Ioann. Reasons enough for Mathis Neuhaus to check things out for zweikommasieben.
Recently, on a trip to Tokyo, I made a strange experience. In an exhibition called Open Space 2017: Re-envisioning the Future at the Intercommunication Center, I was led into a pitch-black space, directed to sit down and informed about a panic button at the leg of my chair that I could press if the following would unsettle me too much. The door closed and I was left in a silent room—literally, because I was sitting in a so-called anechoic chamber that allows no reflection of soundwaves whatsoever. Moments later, abstract sounds filled my head, floating from left to right, from the back of my head to the front. I heard a whisper and was sure, someone was standing right behind me, although I was—of course—all alone. The installation with the rather on-the-nose-title “Seeing with your ears” was a unique experience. It felt like the played sounds, recorded with stereophonic microphones and specifically distributed to exactly the spot I was sitting in, manifested themselves directly in my head. The perception of how precise sound can, well, sound when it is detached from external influence factors like reflective surfaces or sub-par speakers was impressive.
This anecdote came to mind a few weeks later during the annual CTM Festival in Berlin. At Funkhaus Nalepastrasse, a newly developed multi-purpose space for artist studios, concerts and anything sound-related, the 4DSOUND collective set up shop. At MONOM, Berlin’s center for spatial sound that was, amongst others, initiated by well-established producer, DJ and all in all sound-guru DVS1, their sound system was put to a test by Ioann, TCF and Gaika. It’s a system that consists of a speaker grid and that is organized as a sound-cage with customized, room-specific measurements. The speakers are shaped like columns so one can move around them and they take up as little space as possible. The idea behind the system is similar to the installation in Tokyo, creating an “omnidirectional sound environment where the listener can experience sound in an unlimited spatial continuum.” It works differently though. While the room in Tokyo was dark, sound-proof, custom-built, perfectly isolated and made for one person at a time, at MONOM the conditions were more adverse. Stone walls, many people and the occasional chatter made it hard to compete with the crystalline and focused clarity that was achieved in Japan.
After Ioann’s introduction of the night—all done with an iPad and consisting mostly of vague ambient sounds—fell a bit flat, TCF played it relatively safe. Moreover, the performance of the Norwegian artist and blockchain-enthusiast was unfortunately interrupted due to technical difficulties. Gaika’s performance, the final one that night, was the most impressing of the bunch: a specially commissioned piece called “The Spectacular Empire Pt II: The Time Machine,” that relied heavily on the artist’s own voice—delivered mostly as spoken word—, was only supported by eerie synths and beats. The Warp-signed producer and singer made clever use of the sound system’s undeniable benefits without constantly overdoing it just because he could. A looped hush by Gaika, who was placed in the center of the action with the audience standing all around him, traveled through the room, making it sound like it chased itself through the cavernous space. Also, Gaika’s performance was the most convincing, because the presented material in itself was on point: it would have certainly sounded great through a conventional sound system, too.
It will be interesting to see, if artists will embrace the possibilities of the 4DSOUND system more in the future. For example, by producing and mastering tracks already adept to the system and its fragmented set-up. For now, the experience at MONOM cannot come anywhere close to the one I made in Japan a while back. Not that I expected it to, but secretly, I had hope and longed for a rerun.