Studio Sova #13 :: Nathalia, Chihiro Kawasaki & vvvlad

The queen of introspective ambient and legendary audio visual gatherings Experiment Intrinsic finally joins Sova Audio for a special meditative session on the magic carpet, broadcasted live worldwide from the heart of East London.

Nathalia Petkova is the mind, body and spirit behind Experiment Intrinsic, an immersive event series that combines ambient and experimental music with visual art, deep listening and meditation. The events began back in 2014 as invite-only gatherings held in an abandoned London water reservoir replete with speakers and projection mapping gear. Artists would then unfurl rich, slow-burning soundscapes alongside intricate live visuals, teasing apart the healing powers of sound and exploring how they could be enriched with novel sights and sensations. At that time, Nathalia was growing tired of late nights spent DJing on the London techno circuit and Experiment Intrinsic enabled her to explore the gentler textures and tempos she increasingly found herself drawn to.

While the experience is multisensory, a flawless audio setup is clearly of the utmost importance for something as delicate and forceful as an Experiment Intrinsic event - and that’s where Sova Audio come in. “Sova have been a big part of Intrinsic since the second event,” Nathalia told me when we caught up recently. “I’ve always been precious about sound systems and as a DJ I’ve had lots of issues where the promoters weren’t taking care of the basics or the sound engineer just had no idea what they were doing. But then once we started working with [Sova founder] George it was such a relief because I knew that I had someone next to me who would take care of everything as if it were his own project.”

Since that first collaboration, Sova Audio have worked on every Experiment Intrinsic event Nathalia has conjured up, and when she decided that it was time to step things up a level and curate a four-day festival in France, naturally Sova were right there with her. The resulting event, set within the grounds of a historic villa in Dordogne, built upon the original concept, retaining the rich array of music and visual art (from renowned artists like Roedelius, Jan Jelinek and Nicholas Lutz) but adding yoga classes, guided meditation sessions, and voice and mantra workshops.

Arrangements were in place for a follow-up edition of the festival at the same location in summer 2020 but these were scuppered for obvious reasons, as were plans to rearrange it for 2021. Nathalia remains unperturbed though and she now has her sights set on a spectacular new location in the mountains of her (and Soca Audio’s) homeland - Bulgaria. The move comes with plenty of upsides, as Nathalia explains: “Bulgaria is a very beautiful place to visit, but it’s also easy and cheap which opens the event up to a lot of people. Also my idea moving forward is that after the festival we can organise a hike to the Seven Rila Lakes which is one of the most energetic spots on earth. So we can make it even more of a full experience.”

Experiment Intrinsic’s development into a more holistic, spiritual and wellness-focused platform mirrors a similar change in Nathalia, both in her life and her art. “Recently my focus has changed more to yoga, meditation, mantras and different kinds of self-awareness, and I’m trying to bring this more and more into my mixes,” she tells me. “I take original recordings of mantras or talks and build on them, adding an ambient track, some drums or shamanic sounds, then some nature sounds, like birdsong, for example. I’m always mixing like this, between three or four channels - it’s more fun and you can build this kind of journey.”

This approach has seen Nathalia move away from purely musical or performance-based environments, and she has recently been commissioned to create soundscapes specifically for yoga studios. The idea of crafting sounds that act more as meditative tools than music seems a fitting reaction to the interminable state of numbed anxiety we’ve all found ourselves in over the last two years. For Nathalia, though, this progression was just as much about doing something new as it was about doing something more cathartic. Her advice for dealing with these times is typically positive: “You just have to learn to step back and take a breath. Maybe find another hobby, maybe get inspired by something else, because it's all a learning process - the thing is to flow with life.”

I think after the years we’ve all been through, you could do much worse than to listen to that advice.

Perhaps that’s a little easier said than done, but when platforms like Experiment Intrinsic are back up and running life becomes much easier to flow with.