The results are often extraordinary. Take, for instance, Kevin Martin, the UK artist also known as The Bug. Martin is known for his obsession with impeccable sound at punishing volumes, and CTM helped him take this passion to what may have been its logical conclusion: "Sirens," which he performed for the first time at the festival, saw him connecting his own custom-built soundsystem to Berghain's formidable rig to unleash 45 minutes of sirens, fog horns and pure bass frequencies. Martin is famously hard to please, but this one left him reeling. "Felt like the loneliest sonic tones on earth to 747s taking off onstage," he gushed on Facebook the next day. "Was incredible to make a sonic dream real."
CTM is full of moments like these. During this year's eight-day programme, Downwards duo OAKE soundtracked a one-off modern dance performance, Emptyset unveiled a new radio-based live act called "Signal," Raster-Noton founder Frank Bretschneider and Berlin sound artist Pierce Warnecke debuted a project called "SINN + FORM," and modern grime artists Logos and Mumdance teamed up with Shapednoise for the first performance of a new collaboration called "The Sprawl." All this amidst a daytime program loaded with panels, interviews and exhibitions, not to mention the annual Hacklab, a week-long production workshop hosted by Leslie Garcia and Peter Kirn of Create Digital Music. CTM is more than a festival—it's a frothing petri dish of musical ideas, in equal measure entertaining and enlightening, for the artists as well as the audience.
The heart of CTM is Kunstquartier Bethanien, a cultural center housed in a regal 19th century building in Kreuzberg. Here, CTM hosts exhibitions and art installations, as well as lectures, panel discussions and interviews on subjects ranging from digital DJing to "experiments with sound and electronic music in the USSR in the 1960-80s." Meanwhile, at the Native Instruments offices, participants in the MusicMakers Hacklab pursued odd experiments in music production hardware—they were specifically encouraged to explore things like "biofeedback systems," "data sonification" and "human sensors (Galvanic Skin Response, EKG, EEG, eye movement, blood pressure, resporation and mechanomyogram or MMG)." Their projects debuted at the end of the week at the Tuning Machines Finale, a concert at the theater HAU2.
Many of CTM's boldest performances take place in theater spaces: HAU, a cluster of venues by the canal in Kreuzberg, and HKW (or The House Of World Cultures). At HAU2, the audience sprawled out on cushions in a dark amphitheater, free to watch the stage, close their eyes or gaze at the ceiling as the sounds of artists like TeZ and TCF washed over them. Around the corner, HAU1, an intimate, wood-paneled theater complete with a balcony, hosted performances by the likes of Emptyset and Craig Leon. On the other side of town, HKW was brought to life by audio-visual performances from Atom TM and Robin Fox, Frank Bretschneider and Pierce Warnecke.
Later on each night, CTM ventured into the clubs. Berghain has long been a CTM staple, allowing its hallowed dance floors to be repurposed for more avant-garde sounds (including The Bug's audio barrage). At the reggae club YAAM (now housed at the site of former Berlin institution Maria Am Ostbahnhof), SOPHIE, OAKE and Concrete Fence shared a mixed bill the first weekend, while the likes of Yung Lean and Gravity Boys took over on the second. As always, the week culminated in a finale concert at Astra, this time featuring Carter Tutti Void, the Mumdance/Logos/Shapednoise amalgamation and the increasingly acclaimed Japanese trio Nisennenmondai. For anyone still up for more, Palms Traxx headlined the afterparty at Urban Spree.