It’s genuinely hard to describe the Superbooth in words. The synthesizer lovefest dreamt up by Andreas Schneider and team in Berlin was a collision between a festival and a trade show, scattered in impromptu fashion through the chambers of the former East Germany radio facility. Visitors wandered from knob-twiddling displays into quadraphonic concerts, from combined performance-demos by modular makers and artists to encounters with legendary synth pioneers over a queue for beer.
And the whole week was an exercise in overabundance. Far from the linear experience of a convention floor, the maze of studios and halls at the Funkhaus venue made the event feel like exploring a nerdy haunted house. Superbooth also spilled out into meetings on the lawn and ferry boat, as multiple unofficial afterparties packed live modular performances and you could spot Tony Rolando (MakeNoise) and Mark Verbos at the bar at Berghain Sunday.
So, sure, there was news here and there – some new modules, some new systems, as expected. But maybe the bigger story was the show itself. The modular world has positively exploded with manufacturers. And while reading online you might get the impression that the scene is defined by desktop synths and conventional oscillators and filters, carved up into modules, Superbooth demonstrated otherwise.
There is a simply astonishing array of vendors now making modular, characterized by nothing so much as pervasive weirdness. While plenty is happening in analog circuitry, many of these modules are now turning to digital techniques to push their variety still further out – a logical response to an increasingly crowded market. And while there’s a decidedly fly-by-night, one-person operation tendency to many of the makers, that hasn’t resulted in some cookie-cutter appearance. The modular scene includes quite a lot of eye candy.
Stuff with patch cords was the undisputed star of the show, but the event wasn’t religiously about modular. iOS apps and keyboards and everything else to do with synths got their day, too.
But the Superbooth organizers and Andreas had a particularly ingenious touch. Everything remained about sound. While the exhibit floors were cacophonous as one would expect, you could always duck into a concert or concert-demo, or stay for marathon lineups Friday and Saturday. With masterful performances, that served as constant reminder of how all this tech translated to exploring new timbres.
Perhaps the best way to get what this was about, though, is in images. So I’ll let the pictures do the rest of the talking; the atmosphere was truly unparalleled.