Superbooth Berlin preview: why the May edition will be an essential music culture event

Superbooth is back in the woods of Köpenick for the second time in under a year – an unmatched meeting point for synths, instruments, and music. Whether you join on CDM or (ideally) come in person in Berlin, here’s what to look forward to in May.

Photo at top / event photos from fall: Angela Kroell, courtesy Superbooth

Event planning has required some serious flexibility. COVID-19 canceled the 2020 edition, then limited what was possible for the fall 2021 return. Now, we have war in Europe with divides not seen since the Cold War, and synth makers in Ukraine who are unable to leave their home country and are directly under attack. Superbooth’s traditional indoor venue is now converted to Ukrainian refugee housing.

But in tough times, music can be more essential than ever. Against the backdrop of all this strife, I’m eager for all of us to get to connect and talk about how we can bring the worlds of instruments and music-making closer. (Separate from Superbooth, I’m also looking at how we can include some of those of our colleagues we’ll miss from Ukraine.)

Here’s a guide to what to check out and what to expect.

Foto Angela Kroell 4169534
Synths in the woods. May returns to the outdoor venues.

It’s a big anniversary

Superbooth turns 20 this year – the name itself refers to its original form, just a very large booth full of like-minded friends and makers, held at Musikmesse. That provided a sanctuary for small makers who would be unable to afford typical trade fair costs. And it’s also when absynth, low-cost German bubbly, and even Club Mate saw some cocktail hybrids.

I was part of a couple of those editions in the past decade. Check the history:

But I expect some nods and surprises alluding to the anniversary year and the return of Superbooth from the abyss of COVID.


Hainbach will take us into 1960s German and Japanese history

Hainbach has an incredible-looking talk planned for Friday, in collaboration with Goethe-Institut Tokyo and the Japanese-German Center Berlin led by Gebrüder Teichmann and Makoto Oshiro. Expect both histories of the early WDR facility (and Stockhausen’s Telemusik as a window into modulation), and Tokyo’s legendary NHK.

Goethe Institut @ Tokyo: Sixties_electronics

It’s guitar builders, too

Europe has an exceptional instrument-building tradition, and that extends to guitar makers. So Superbooth joins “Soopergrail,” a gathering for guitarists and builders.

That includes more traditional acoustic building techniques – beautiful stuff with wood, narrated nicely here in German:

But of course, this being Superbooth-adjacent, you can also expect wild stuff with electricity and invention, too. Our friends at SonicState captured Deimel Guitarworks’ tricked-out inventions in the fall:

Meet a creator of new hybrids

The person I’m most excited to see is instrument builder Sukandar Kartadinata, an instrument builder riffing on his own guitar background to imagine all kinds of wild new instruments made from strings, frets, sensors, embedded electronics, and custom hybrid designs. That includes the Strophonion custom sensor controller (developed partly at STEIM), the Data Violin, a kind of robotic hurdy-gurdy viola cross-breed, and a technology-packed guitar unlike any guitar you’ve seen before. Check the workshop in the circus tent. (Yeah, and the fact that that’s in a circus tent is also something you won’t get at “trade shows.”)

data violin 1
The creator with the Data Violin.

beirut synth center
In the Beirut Synthesizer Center

There’s a link from Berlin to Beirut

I’m myself just back from Beirut, Lebanon and the extraordinary, richly experimental music scene there. Now the Beirut Synthesizer Center will come to Berlin, meeting on Tuesday at Morphine Raum in Kreuzberg, giving a talk at Superbooth’s Auditorium on Thursday the 12th, and playing live in the Bungalowdorf on Saturday evening.

This is one that matters on a whole number of levels. The Beirut Synthesizer Center project was a way to respond musically to come back from trauma – the location itself is just blocks from the location of the summer 2020 blast, with a lot of the damage still visible. And it’s important to think of our practice not only in trouble-free times, but in those contexts in our lives that bring trauma, too.

It’s also the latest moment in a deepening connection between Germany and Lebanon and the wider region, along with other international links that recenter our synth scene from the US and western Europe to a more representative world.

And beyond all that, the model Beirut has adopted – a collective space, shared workshops, collective access to gear – is really unique, and one that might work in your neck of the woods, too. So stay tuned.

See our previous coverage here:

Lots of news is coming – and here’s where the inventors speak and play

Okay, here I’d love to say more than I can but – as always you can expect this to be a big show for new synths. And Superbooth, perhaps because of its uniquely artist-focused world and the fact that it’s just a fun place to hang out, has started to eclipse even the mighty shows of the USA for gear news. (Sorry, ahem.)

Without talking about what might be coming, let’s just say it’s exciting that manufacturers now start to talk directly to us and work more with artists and the community – big makers and small. And at Superbooth, you also get talks from the actual creators and see them play music – a big contrast to the old media circus press conference you got at the big trade shows, and a welcome one.

Moog has just opened their own center here in Berlin and was already a big presence in the fall. Berlin locals Verbos and E-RM make talk and live appearances. Dave Smith and Marcus Ryle have a talk scheduled on Saturday and, you know, that might be interesting for some reason like an Oberheim teaser we saw recently.

Foto Angela Kroell 4170146

Expect great music

This year’s edition has just a really nice lineup with even more underground-focused music.

Some highlights: Julia Bondar, the Ukraine-native co-founder of whose live set I’ve already raved about, composer/artist Lisa Morgenstern, Eden Grey whose patch series I also covered during lockdown, the legendary Atom TM, Mark Verbos, the exceptional JacqNoise alongside Barish (Anatolian microtones!), and many more.

In a Berlin original, you even get Peter Pichler on the Trautonium (live Saturday, plus a workshop, too).

Oh yeah, plus I’m excited to join the amazing Jean-Marcel Fricke (of MFB fame, one of Berlin’s finest makers) on Friday. I’ve gotten into jams with him unplanned in past editions – either playing or, like, dancing or whatever – so this has almost become a tradition. Can’t wait for our debut announced appearance.


Don’t forget workshops and DIY builds

There’s just a ton of stuff to build and learn on this edition. Come, build, leave with amazing gear:

16n analog/digital fader controller

LeafAudio Dronesynth (LeafAudio are always a favorite, and their stuff isn’t available outside these events)

Fred’s Lab Zekit Synth (an instrument I praised in my fall Superbooth coverage)

Learn tape looping

Bastl Instruments Kastle Drum

Various Error Instruments kits

A couple of Making Sound Machines kits

Shakmat Kits

You could practically fill a Eurorack case with just these workshops, lost in the smell of solder (and yeah, they’ll also teach you how to solder). Still want more Sunday, and sad that Superbooth is over? There’s another (unofficial) event Sunday night, DIY Kit Day – which in the fall already felt like the nerd afterparty. Andreas Krach, co-organizer, writes to promise “Monotrail live, Erica Synths featuring the Moritz Klein educational kit series, Error Instruments, Ginko Synthese (with the brand new Magma compressor and also live as “Colloid”) Krach der Roboter”

Event details on Facebook

Foto Angela Kroell ANA8024

Full information

There’s now a simplified landing page for both the synth and guitar events, BE SOOPER:

Sizmo in us

Oh yeah, what’s up with those fonts?

Sure, you’ll find coverage of Superbooth elsewhere on these Internets, but where but CDM will we ask the probing questions of where the typefaces used at the festival originated.

These are the work of designer Verena Gerlarch, who has created FF Sizmo Pro, the latest iteration of a face that began life as Vielzweck/Tephe. These come in various weights and variations, plus the distinctive “line” version, which incorporate the horizontal connecting line a signboard would have. (There’s also Eastern European language support.)

The source of the type is connected to Berlin’s landmark Haus des Lehrers, a space that by the end of the 20th century had incorporated a community collective. The first house typeface for that community was Gerlach’s original design, modeled on the tenant directory signage system (hence that horizontal connecting strip). And that in turn became the house font for Superbooth from its 2016 launch as a standalone event.


Calendar is go

See you at Superbooth!

Mark your calendars here:

Fall coverage

Seems so long ago, somehow…

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