Experimental Intrinsic: Beyond the beat (part one)

    With a loyal following growing across all corners of Europe, Experiment Intrinsic is one of the more unique platforms currently operating within the underground and alternative music scene. As a small independent operation, their intimate chill-out events showcase a delicate curation of ambient and experimental music alongside projection mapping visuals in a comfortable setting.

    From London origins to their almost-mythical first festival edition in France 2017, the project has expanded to include not only audio-visual trips, but also activities around meditation, yoga, and holistic practices. Driven by a strong vision and philosophy, Experiment Intrinsic seems to be more than just an event series – promoting a positive, conscious culture, the project seeks to elevate its participants through their immersive gatherings.

    Their upcoming festival in Bulgaria in June promises to be a special opportunity to get the full Experiment Intrinsic experience. We spoke with the founder of the project Nathalia to learn more…

    Thanks for taking the time to share some insight into Experiment Intrinsic. Firstly, can you briefly explain what Experiment Intrinsic is for those that are not familiar with the project? 

    Experiment Intrinsic is a unique not-for-profit platform that offers immersive audio-visual experiences. We started as a small project in London providing events in the ambient and experimental music fields, but quickly evolved, incorporating other styles of music (avant-garde, jazz, downtempo, ‘world’, etc.) as well as combining holistic practices such as yoga, meditation, ceremonies and workshops.

    At its heart, it is a community-focussed project that encourages deep listening and development of self-awareness. The events are built on careful curation and high quality production with the aim of creating a comfortable chill-out space – something I feel is much needed, but relatively hard to find.

    Through our events we strive to cultivate a culture of not only deep listening and introspection, but also common respect, and equanimity.

    In 2017, we held our first festival edition in the Dordogne in France, which enabled us to offer a much wider programme. The festival format is ideal because it allows us to go deeper and more fully realises the vision and set of values that we promote.

    Could you go into more detail about the audio-visual aspect?

    Musically, the project originally provides a platform for artists mainly from the electronic dance music scene to express themselves in a space free of prejudice and expectation – until now there hasn’t really been a dedicated platform done in this way. Many club-oriented DJs look forward to playing ambient, experimental and downtempo music – Experiment Intrinsic is a rare opportunity for both the artist and audience to join together in such exploration. We are also pleased to host live and instrumental acts that can provide something more organic or traditional – so our remit is very wide.

    The visual aspect has always been highly important to the project, and is treated as essential as the music. Using the space as our canvas, we use projection mapping onto architecture and nature to fabricate a new creative dimension. In an industry that typically treats visuals as secondary, we seek to place a more equal representation of the two roles, which, in the moment, complements spontaneously and artistically. Sound and visuals are a fundamental combination, and when done correctly can really transport an audience. There are still many possibilities left to explore with the programming and setting.

    Going back to the beginning – how did Experiment Intrinsic start out?

    Experiment Intrinsic began in 2014 following a big transition in my personal and creative life. Previously I was playing techno and promoting parties around Europe, but at some point, I found the environment increasingly difficult to be a full-time part of. Whilst the scene offers potentially special, life-affirming moments, it also can be very destructive on many levels. As a reference – topics such as mental health and drug/alcohol abuse are now clearly and openly spoken about in our community.

    Practically overnight I stopped DJing, sold all my records, and this gave the space for the concept of Experiment Intrinsic to emerge. The very first edition of the project took place at a unique water reservoir venue in East London and delivered the vision for an experimental event that combined DJs, projection mapping visuals, and chill-out floor.

    Launching Experiment Intrinsic was a way for me to reassess myself and my values. In a culture that has suffered from the process of heavy commercial and industrial development, it was an opportunity for me to put my energy into something that could be both a healing experience and consciously expanding for its participants.

    What would you say are some of the key elements that make Experiment Intrinsic unique as a platform? 

    There are a few particular details that when combined make the project fairly unique.

    Firstly, as a grass-roots organisation we’re a fully community-centred project. This means giving a personal touch to our communications and hosting, being very transparent about our operations, and doing our best to cater to the audience needs. We are very grateful to have respectful audiences at our gatherings – it is their quiet but focussed attention and consideration that truly sets the stage for the performance to happen.

    We also work as a community with long-standing friends and partners – fellow musicians, artists, engineers, stage designers, and other talented people to make the project as a whole a success. Often our colleagues will make sacrifices and favours in order to contribute – such as taking reduced fees or working outside of their usual terms – but for such a project it is only the full collective input of those involved (nothing less) that can make it possible. We generally live in a world of transaction and an ideology of personal gain, so it’s hard to run a community project that requires such investment and dedication. However, if we are all to succeed, the individual input of everyone is essential.

    Other key aspects include giving great attention to detail and quality, which since the very beginning has been a top priority for me.  Due to this we have not been willing to compromise on things such as sound system, visual production, venue, stage and comfort of our guests. Although it presents its own challenges, it’s important to have a clear vision and we orient our operations from this foundation rather than the other way around. This is also why all of our gatherings are low-capacity which provides an intimate atmosphere. Such work is very consuming, but I believe the combination creates a very compelling result.

    The stage decor is also of a great importance – we work in very close relation with Naturalgoritm. The concept behind the creative art project is fully aligned with our values and respect for nature. The person behind Naturalgoritm is also the co-organiser of the Waha festival, a lovely gathering which takes place deep into the woods of Transylvania. The festival has played an important role in my artistic transition from dance oriented to a chill out music. The colourful aspect of audio and visual, plus the vision of stage decor has always been very inspiring. Tudor designs and constructs organic stages and decorations using materials from the local environment – it’s something we truly appreciate.

    How has Experiment Intrinsic evolved over the years?

    After five events at our first venue, we moved to a sacred space for a series of extended overnight sessions which were very deep and richly inspired. Against all odds, our first festival gathering in France 2017 laid the blueprint for future editions – showing us what was possible and the power of collective experience. In 2019 we then launched ALL IS ONE, a holistic event concept hosted by Dr. Kamalroop Singh, which gave us the opportunity to offer sessions based around meditation, yoga, and ancient knowledge systems such as Ayurveda and mantra. Each iteration has been a learning process that has involved constant evolution and integration of the different aspects of the project.

    Having found a new location next to the Balkan mountains in Bulgaria, we’re now looking forward to our next festival edition, happening 21-27 June 2022. The extended festival format gives the opportunity for a much more immersive experience, closer to the elements and the earth, where people can really plug out of the system and reconnect with themselves and others in a collective experience. The nature of the event in this way creates an environment where magic can really happen.

    You mentioned that the festival recently moved to Bulgaria, why is it not happening in France anymore? Can you tell us a bit more about the new location and why did you choose to settle with Bedouin Forest Residence?

    Following COVID we were forced to cancel our scheduled festival in 2020 and 2021. Due to disagreements and a lack of cooperation from the management of our previous location in the weeks leading up to and after our cancellation announcement, it became necessary for us to terminate our partnership with the venue and search for a new place. After trying to renegotiate new festival dates for the following year, we were unable to agree to their unreasonable contract terms. Unfortunately, to this date they have retained several thousand euros.

    Marking another big chapter in my life, this period coincided with me leaving the UK – where I’d been living for many years – and returning to my home country of Bulgaria. When I moved back I went in search of possible locations for the festival, and discovered the Bedouin Forest Residency, which will be our new home for our upcoming festival editions.

    The team welcomed our project and are willing to collaborate. A lot of cooperation is needed between a promoter and the venue, and so especially for a specific project as Experiment Intrinsic, not every venue may be suitable. They have been supportive of our vision, and particularly for the scene in Bulgaria and eastern Europe this partnership has a lot of potential to provide value to many people.

    We hope to build on future editions with the experience and mutual understanding that we’re gaining now. The land of Bulgaria is rich, ancient, beautiful, and I’m looking forward to everyone connecting with the powerful nature and landscapes here.

    What are some of the main challenges involved with the project?

    Such a project founded on a clear set of principles requires a very specific approach. Due to this we are limited in many ways – low capacity and high production value means that there are no margins and we require filling all of the capacity in order to breakeven. Whilst the spirit seems to be resilient, tight economic factors and financial restraints have put a lot of pressure on us, and that’s before all of the problems associated with the pandemic. Anyone organising niche small-scale events will be familiar with such challenges, and with our current set-up the stakes are high: lots of risk, personal investment, and uncertainty.

    Our focus right now is to create a strong foundation for the future – purchasing necessary equipment, investing in production for the long-term, and as highlighted before, creating a strong community that is aligned with our values and understands what we’re trying to create. It takes time to build infrastructure like this – especially after sustaining such huge expenses due to general overheads and festival cancellations – but I believe it to be necessary if the project is to be successful and sustainable.

    How did you cope with the pandemic and all the cancellations over the last few years? 

    After all that’s happened somehow we are still here today, still with the vision in our hearts and the will to deliver something special. Organising the festival has required us to be incredibly resourceful and we’ve had to adapt continuously in order to avoid a complete meltdown.

    We were handling the multiple cancellations with extraordinary consideration to our audience, and for this reason we introduced the deposit system as a way to mitigate risk and protect ourselves and the participants. During this period we have continuously communicated with our audience members with updates, and I’d actually like to express my thanks here to everyone who has been following and adapting with us along the way.

    We have tried our very best to accommodate everyone and despite the challenges, went out of our way to ensure the best outcome for our community.

    Most of all though, a positive attitude and an open heart has been my guide through the hardships. In those times you need to remember to trust in the Universe.

    Could you explain more about why you introduced the deposit system for Experiment Intrinsic and how that works? 

    We noticed that many popular ticketing platforms do not actually offer refunds on tickets for events as an industry standard. This is completely understandable because it’s practically impossible to plan effectively an event if ticket holders suddenly change their mind. We value anyone who has taken an interest in our project and feel that the deposit can offer more flexibility and security for our audience members.

    Those who are planning to come to the festival can signal their interest by placing a deposit and pay the remaining balance closer to the time of the festival. Not only does this reserve their initial place, but it also allows the ticket payment to be spread out making it more manageable for the individual. Providing that they’ve communicated with us within the given dates, they can also transfer the deposit to a friend or reserve it as credit for a future edition if plans change.

    What many audience members might not fully realise is the sheer amount of logistics and coordination involved behind the scenes. The circumstances have been extreme, but even under normal conditions organising a festival comes with a lot of financial risk and complexity. With so many factors at play, even if just one or two variables change this can have a big impact on the whole structure. So the deposit system also enables us to plan ahead, and secure essential capital prior to the event to cover costs such as venue fees, production, travel, etc. Overall it makes the organisation much smoother for everyone, and helps provide some stability in a very unstable environment.

    What can people expect from Bulgaria 2022? 

    It’s been so long in the making, that there’s been much anticipation building for Bulgaria 2022. After so many twists and turns, we hope to deliver something pure and inspired, to create a high-frequency space for deep collective exploration, and to gather in solidarity for peace.

    We have a full audio-visual line-up featuring live and DJ acts day and night, herbalism, traditional and cultural activities and workshops organised in collaboration with our host Bedouin, as well as meditation, yoga, ceremonies, gong and sound journey. We also encourage everyone to join us exploring the stunning landscapes in our extended trip to the magical 7 Rila Lakes afterwards. More information can be found on our website, and we look forward to welcoming you there.

    Thank you Nathalia for spending the time to speak with us. Part 2 of the feature coming soon, will include more insight into Experiment Intrinsic partners and concepts – their resident visual artists and projection mapping at the events, and Naturalgoritm’s unique fractal stage designs that bridge artist performance and nature together in harmony.

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