Mixmag: The World’s Most Advanced Clubs

Originally published in Mixmag

Cocoon, Frankfurt
The nearest thing to a Being John Malkovich-style tour of the inside of Sven Vath’s head, Cocoon is a psychedelic playground from the 23rd century.

Cocoon

Cocoon

It took 3deluxe – one of Germany’s hottest design agencies – two years just to work out the concept, and the result is a staggering audio-visual-sensual orgy that is to ordinary clubs what acid tabs are to Haribo. Along with its stupefying 130K sound system the star of the freaky show is a 100m “membrane wall” where synchronised visuals (run from the DJ booth) envelope the dancefloor. It’s like being trapped in an IMAX film, but with a better soundtrack.

Cielo, New York City
Cielo is the ultimate swanky Stateside club – complete with hard-nosed door whores, expensive bottle service and a retro-chic interior and sunken dancefloor that punters report feels like “a cross between a ski chalet and a swimming pool”. The cherry on the cake, though, is Cielo’s soundsystem – the first ever exclusively Funktion One rig installed in an American club. As any frothing sound geek will tell you Funktion One is the atom bomb of club audio equipment. In Cielo’s miniscule space (250 capacity, no VIP room) the sound is an experience that will be stamped indelibly in your memory – and your eardrums.

I Love Neon, Canada

I Love Neon

I Love Neon

I Love Neon proves that sometimes the most cutting edge clubs aren’t clubs at all, but ideas brought to life. The brainchild of a bunch of music-loving graphic designers, Neon uses static lighting, projections, screens and mini-strobes to create a mind-melting audio visual experience. Based in an art gallery, Neon transforms the space for every party, moving the entrance, DJ booth and amenities so each event takes a completely new shape. Fans of this Through The Looking Glass experience include Boys Noize (whose album launch they just hosted), Hell and Tiga – who helped start the Neon collective.

Zouk, Singapore
Housed in a pair of 90-year-old warehouses, Zouk redefines “warehouse party” with four rooms of razor-edge technology set in baroque splendour. Thirty plasma screens dot the club, which boasts a 3-colour RBG exterior lighting system with fibre optic-laced tensile roofing and a million-dollar Gary Steward audio system in the Gaudi-inspired main room. The Phuture room mixes luridly organic furnishings and an MPIX LED wall. While in the Velvet Underground opulent Chinese-inspired designs swirl across the ceiling and the walls are studded with priceless Pop Art by the likes of Andy Warhol and Keith Haring. You don’t get that in Shoreditch…

Womb, Tokyo
Womb is pure science fiction: where space-age Japanese technology meets their national fascination with kitsch as the world-beating lighting system bounces off the 7-foot disco ball that revolves above the central dancefloor while the Phuzon-designed soundsystem (they created Twilo New York’s legendary PA) rattles the three storey- main room. Unsurprisingly, Womb is known to leave even the most jaded clubbers and seen-it-all jocks slack jawed with amazement. After a gig there Loco Dice was at a loss for words: “I can’t even explain it. It’s like science fiction, like being on a trip, you keep thinking ‘am I going to wake up?’”

D-Edge, Brazil

D-Edge, Brazil

D-Edge, Brazil

Set in the heart of ultra-modernist Sao Paulo, D-Edge is South America’s most futuristic club. A magnet for the techno A-list (Richie Hawtin loves it so much he once cajoled the owner to boot the night’s headliner off the decks so he could play instead) it’s also an epileptic’s worst nightmare. Every available interior inch of the tiny, 350 capacity club is ablaze with light. The sloping disco-dancefloor is lit from beneath, while acres of LEDs turn the walls into giant EQs, and pulsing veins of light flash across the ceiling – giving the terrifyingly cool sensation of being suspended inside a beating human heart.

Ambasada Gavioli, Izola, Slovenia
A two-thousand-year-old fishing village is an unlikely destination for cutting edge nightlife. Nevertheless, Izola (pop. 15,000; chief attractions: walking tours and olive oil) is home to one of clubbing’s best kept secrets: Ambasada Gavioli. The unashamedly over-the-top 2,500 capacity club is a highly stylised architectural jumble of Baroque and Art Nouveau, married to blinding laser system. Sheets of glass connect the two rooms allowing continuous sound-and-light programming, while the walls splashed with psychedelic paintings inspired by Baudelaire’s sex-and-death obsessed poems The Flowers of Evil turn the club into a post-modern Brothers Grimm fairy tale cave. Unsurprisingly it’s one of Sven Vath’s favourite destinations.

Cavo Paradiso, Mykanos
Cavo Paradiso is famous for its open-all-hours swimming pool, but this is no sandy, sweaty terrace club. There is a seriously high-tech pulse beating beneath the sunny, seaside façade. Set in the face of a 50 metre cliff above the Mediterranean the club is literally built out of the rock that surrounds it – 80% of it is native stone. The rest? A booth that’s a DJ’s wet dream (five mixers, eight decks, bespoke monitors…) and a brand new custom sound system, six months in the making, that has caused nearby hotels to demand they soundproof the club before next season.

T-O 12, Stuttgart

T-O 12

T-O 12

Flying pigs? Mirrored ceilings? Feel like you’ve double dropped and you’ve only had a beer? It must be T-O 12. Set in a former office block, this multiple award-winning monochrome design melting pot evokes Barbarella, DC Comics, Hitchcock, Apocalypse Now and Stuttgart street life. Huge black-and-white silhouetted illustrations splash across the walls: upstairs a fleet of helicopters cruise over the bar, downstairs Venus Fly Traps hover by the urinals. In the chill out space the scattering of mirrors and strobes make the lounge look endless. Owner Niko Tonidis says he “wants people to remember it in 20 years,” we reckon they will.

Watergate, Berlin
Designed by top Berlin architects Bolwin & Wulf, Watergate boasts eye-popping vistas – inside and out. From the second floor huge plate glass windows look across the River Spree to the old East Berlin, taking in a glittering picture postcard view of the city skyline, making the club a favourite location for TV crews. Inside, the angular space is dotted with minimal Stylomat-built furnishings which crouch beneath the main room’s Vegas-style ceiling. Color Kenetics programmable LED lights run the length and breadth form a pulsing arc that has been known to cause regrettable whiplash injuries from too much time spent gawping upwards.

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