By Kai Teo
Photography: Em Loorents
NORBERG FESTIVAL 2017
27 JULY – 30 JULY, SWEDEN
Have you ever experienced sound waves so massive that they hit your body like a hard concrete wall? Have you ever felt the vibrations from giant speakers so violent that it makes breathing difficult? Have you ever been pounded so hard by bass so angry that your heart tunes itself to beat at the same pace?
Welcome to Norberg Festival – a courageous exploration of what sound can do, and a breathtaking leap into the unknown frontiers of audio.
For three days, audiophiles are thrown into the tumultuous waves of a raging ocean of music genres, many of which I can’t even name, but mostly because when you’re pushing the boundaries of audio possibilities, classification loses its meaning.
Set on the abandoned compound of an old iron mining factory, the festival area seems to cast a dark shadow of our auditory Armageddon, or the end of our world of music we had, for so long, held on to. The towering, raw concrete behemoth of Mimerlaven looms over every corner our visual peripherals, as if to signal our three-day imprisonment in a universe without rules, without respect, and without expectations. We are now trapped in a constant state of mindblown, mind mashed, and mind gone.
Inside the dirty belly of Mimerlaven lies the mangled intestines of rusty iron stairs and cracked concrete blocks, reminiscent of a time when this 10-storey space rang loud with working machines and smelled of glowing melted iron ore. But for one fiery weekend every July, this is the dark pit that vibrates violently to the sounds of twisted sound artists from around the globe. Every decibel that is emitted from the speakers are magnified by its passage through the concrete, metal and stale air. Every sound wave that escapes the system are let loose to bounce around the dusty walls, bringing the building ever closer to its eventual crumbling.
In the daytime, Mimer houses the atmospheric waves of ambient artists, bathing every visitor with a calming, meditative blanket, as they spread themselves around different levels and dark corners, enclosed in their sleeping bags like larvae metamorphosing in their cocoons. As the sun sets, the space transforms into a hellish jail of tortured souls, electrified by jarring screams, deafening bass, and the cacophony of noise maestros.
Every successful escape from Mimer leads us into the chilly winds of the Swedish summer, but not for long. Next stop, the 303 stage. The 5000 gabber bpm seizes us by the balls and tits, and blasts away every molecule of intelligence that we’ve accumulated. Here, we stomp, and stomp, and stomp. The D&B and jungle animals pry us away from our consciousness and initiate us into a wild tribe of dancing animals – sweaty, sexy and maybe a little smelly. This is no meditation. This is pure mayhem.
Run away now. Escape the wilderness, and plunge once again into the cradle of sound of the holy Kraftwerk stage, a smaller concrete block that used to be the power station of the compound. Today, it is the battery of our dreams, and our connection to the divine. As I stood as a recipient of the sound waves, I discovered God. No, not the Christian old dude with a beard that created an apple just to tell you that you can’t eat it. I mean, it’s as cruel as putting a big red button on the wall and putting a sign beside it saying “Don’t press”. But I digress.
When the vibrations assaulted my every senses and shook every particle in my body, I felt my soul awaken. This pure power was, to me, a manifestation of God in the form of sound. In other words, if God was a sound, she would reside in Norberg Festival. It wasn’t like a beautiful voice, nor a melodic rhythm. It was pure power that resonated to the very core of me. At many points, I was rendered motionless, struck by the explosions of the bass cannons. It wasn’t even about how loud the volume was, it was more about how the artistes used their tools to interpret the divine entity we call sound.
As I stared into the black holes of the speakers, it seemed obvious to me that the sound I’ve been hearing that evening was a holy being on its own. And through the chosen messengers we sometimes call DJs, they are able to be channeled into our consciousness, to be experienced, and worshipped. And many of the artistes that did just that at Norberg were those that played without an inflated ego. It was clear that all they wanted to do was to help us experience the spiritual possibilities of sound. To them, sound is the God, and they were mere channels.
Three solid days of frequency worshipping was enough to turn anyone into a religious follower of Norberg Festival and its high priests of sound.
So if you’re looking for a festival to have fun and get drunk, go to Way Out West. But if you’re wiling to come face to face with the most powerful sounds you’ve ever experienced, Norberg welcomes you next year, and the year after, and after, and after…