An IRL escape to Sonos and Gorillaz’ Spirit House Berlin

Dirty plates in the sink, pizza stuck to the wall, a virtual fish tank on the TV: The Sonos and Gorillaz’ Spirit House experience begins in full surreal style: returning after a seven-year hiatus, you’d expect no less from the animated four-piece.

The Sonos and Gorillaz Spirit House was opened just for the weekend in the centre of Berlin, and when I visited last Thursday, the entire event was already booked up by eager fans of Albarn’s shadowy outfit.

Jamie Hewlett creates an apocalyptic scrawl of a cartoon world around every album, and this one is no different. The dark, grey-green entrance room is based on a house in Detroit, which was the location for the 360-experience video for Saturnz Barz, and has also been painstakingly copied for the augmented reality app that accompanies the album.

The first room is filled with hints of Hewlett’s universe: a dusty old megaphone, a gigantic fake cream cake in the fridge, a plastic marijuana plant on the table. On the coffee table, amid overflowing ashtrays and crumpled drinks cans, sit a selection of handpicked magazines: WiredNME and MAD, a selection of the bands best covers and editorial.

Elsewhere, I spot a samurai sword on the magnetic knife rack – yep, I’m definitely inside Gorillaz’s mundane, mystical dystopia now. As we are led around the band’s virtual home, (created in Berlin’s Kaufhaus Jandorf), the unstoppable beats of their new album Humanz, is played through Playbase, Sonos’ newest home cinema sound system which pumped sound through the house.

As I head out of the first room’s stale weirdness, I enter a black, winding corridor – “…and out of the elephant’s trunk…confetti!” Albarn’s creaky voice tells me, like an odd, anthropological fairy tale. And suddenly, I find myself in a cosy but well-lit room for the main presentation.

This is where the magic happens. Zooming through space in outtakes and video material from Humanz, I’m completely immersed in Hewlett’s world – meshing unique and thrilling 360 visuals with the killer sound of the new Sonos Playbase – My eyes, ears (and butt – sat next to the Sonos subwoofer) are all orbited into the audiovisual display. As we drift through space, stomp around Detroit and carefully pan over the gorgeous monochrome portraits that Hewlett has created, we shine over Noodles’ classic heart-shaped glasses, a matchstick in her mouth, and we continue the tour through to a naked Murdoc Niccals’ cosmic-bound bath, while 2D and Russel Hobbs’ empty eyes stare their way deep into our souls.

These characters, with their foibles and quirks, are so familiar to us now. These journeys into a cartoon world of bouncy doom give a context for the music: we can get closer than even reality allows us. Technology often stumbles in the best way to create IRL experiences. And yet, Gorillaz’s essential virtual nature  gives them the exciting opportunity to find new ways of meeting and connecting with people in their natural, offline habitat.  The striped, trademark Gorillaz black-and-white zig-zag doors swing open into the light and suddenly, I’m out of their world.

For the rest of our Gorillaz coverage, visit Gorillaz: Come Inside

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