During the pandemic, historical forces bent the arrow of time and turned our understanding of private, public and geopolitical space upside down. New circumstances forced us to redefine existing relations. The unknown and the unseen permeated our everyday lives. Unable to make contact with these impalpable forces, we could barely make sense of a strangely distorted reality in which the routines of the past became an unattainable ideal. We were compelled to seek alternative perspectives on proxemics. New definitions of bodily integrity emerged in the process. We rewrote the manuals for public health management and developed new strategies of governance. Europe and much of the world were transformed into an oppressive quarantine almost overnight. Today we live in a post-pandemic world of newly established relationships and epochal geopolitical turmoil, which, combined with current technological innovations in artificial intelligence, web 3.0, metaverse, virtual reality, NFTs, generative art, blockchain and deepfake technologies, are having a profound impact on contemporary (sound) art and music currents.

This year's theme, New Realations, is a wordplay of New Reality and New Relations. It embodies the need, desire and cruelty of the current moment in which the sediments of (post)pandemic sociopolitical forces, a new war on the Old Continent and our search for new contacts and relationships are permeating the fragmented reality that we inhabit. We are in the process of imagining new communities, ways of socialising, collective action and co-creating artistic visions. Can we create new common spaces where creatives can thrive together without relying on digital interfaces and modern technological tools? In an age where festivals are part of the cultural industries and the experience economy, how can we  create an unconventional, experimentally-oriented programme and seek alternative curatorial approaches? Can festivals work as platforms that bring together creatives from different artistic spheres? And why do we urgently need to broaden our perspective and map more thoroughly the overlooked territories of Eastern European sound art creativity? 

Sonica responds to these dilemmas by persevering and weaving relationships between audience and performers, finding spaces and creating collaborations, creative coexistences and thriving environments. The festival includes a series of exclusive commissions and artist residencies that offer artists spaces of support and retreat where new relationships can be established and fresh ideas born. The embroidering of (new) relations has the potential for the embroidering of new realities.

Artists performing at Sonica 2022 have established singular relations to contemporary sound art and music practices, looking for alternative ways of thinking about sonics. The Sonica commissioned residency of French hurdy gurdy master Yann Gourdon and Slovenian imaginary folk trio Širom will result in an exclusive new work, a reflection of their search for common motifs inspired by psychedelia, minimalism, primordials sounds and utopian visions. The trio, consisting of the pioneer of the Lebanese rock and experimental scene Tony Elieh, Slovenian drummer, improviser and modular electronics researcher Jaka Berger and Croatian musician and multimedia artist Branimir Štivić, will also join forces in a residency to present a new joint project.

The stunning collaborative album ARBA, D K ARBA (2020) by French-Slovenian duo Frédéric D. Oberland and Irena Z. Tomažin was conceived as a soundtrack for the installation by French artist Fanny Béguély. On this occasion, the project will be brought to life on stage for the first time together with the chemigrams by the French artist that inspired it. Their introspective soundscapes, composed of disembodied female vocals and the multi-layered drones of an electric hurdy-gurdy, act as a link between prehistoric ritual music and the endless hum of the omniverse. Feldermelder is presenting his hallucinatory blend of diverse electronic music and sound practices, and Lorem his impressive audiovisual narratives, which emerge from the interzones between the artificial and the natural, the human and the machine, artificial intelligence and social reality.

Drawing on the groundbreaking work Crusing Utopia by queer theorist José Esteban Muñoz, on last year's album Cracks the charismatic Norwegian saxophonist Bendik Giske developed an enchantingly hypnotic musical language, taking the sound of his 175-year-old instrument far beyond the familiar. The Slovenian contemporary composer, pianist and producer Bowrain will present his solo project Climbing Up. Balancing his musical language between piano and electronics, the Ljubljana artist is particularly interested in the spatial dimension of sound.

The Italian "rave voyeur" and protégé of the legendary Warp label Lorenzo Senni is a tireless investigator of dance music’s mechanisms and working parts, and is particularly interested in 90s rave and hard trance aesthetics. Yet, his approach to sonic material is not nostalgic. By deconstructing individual building blocks and placing them in new contexts, Senni creates euphoric electronic dance music that heads towards the event horizon. Mexican-American artist Debit, another Sonica resident, takes us into new spaces at the intersection of machine learning, ancient Mayan flute melodies and the contemporary (post)club experience. Through her sonic fiction The Long Count, released on the highly acclaimed Modern Love label, she conjures one of the most fascinating ambient experiences in recent times.

Rooted in the tradition of hooded colonisers of the future, the enigmatic Swedish experimental techno duo SHXCXCHCXSH is presenting its acclaimed live set, which establishes a creative dialogue between abstract techno expressionism and the relentless pounding of industrial hammers. On the closing club night, the unrivalled Dutch selector DJ Marcelle will take us way out of our comfort zones. Using three turntables to make connections between the past and the present and build bridges between diverse genres, styles and expressions, her unique DJ sets are marked by an utterly original vision and daring adventurism. 

Before all that, a special opening programme will take place at the new art centre Cukrarna. The all-day event, which includes an exhibition, discussions and performances, is conceived as a platform to reflect and contextualise the current state of the Central, Eastern and Southern European sound art scene and its representatives.

In response to a new reality that forces us to revive and strengthen old bonds and cultivate and find new ones, this year’s Sonica brings 4 days of unorthodox sonic rituals for a disenchanted post-pandemic world.

Jaša Bužinel