(photo cred: Camille Blake)
The history of Berlin Atonal begins in November 1982. Set up at SO36 in Kreuzberg, the festival became ground-zero for altogether new forms of musical experience; Einstürzende Neubauten, Sprung aus den Wolken, Malaria, Notorische Reflexe, Alu, White Russia, Didaktische Einheit and many other like-minded musical pioneers used Berlin Atonal to launch their entirely novel ideas about the possibilities of sonic expression. Throughout the 1980s Berlin Atonal was at the vanguard of the progressive electronic and experimental music and art scenes in Berlin. The festival closed in 1990 with the fall of the Berlin wall.
In its fifth year back and housed in the beautifully brutal Kraftwerk complex, Berlin Atonal hasn’t lost an ounce of its experimental core established in the 1980s. Since its re-launch in 2013, Berlin Atonal has invited acts including Cabaret Voltaire, Death in Vegas, Outside the Dream Syndicate, Lawrence English, Ben Frost, Terry Riley, Tim Hecker, Glenn Branca, Raime and many more to explore the far reaches of what audio and visual performances can mean.
Below is a schedule of performances that Schmutz is especially looking forward to, but you can check out the full lineup here. Everything from harsh noise to sweeping classical, dancy post-punk to experimental opera. There is nothing like Berlin Atonal anywhere on Earth. Come have a look.
Wednesday, August 16th
Karlheinz Stockhausen presents OKTOPHONIE
Main Stage 20:00
OKTOPHONIE is the 8-channel spatial acousmatic piece composed by Karlheinz Stockhausen as part of his monumental opera cycle LICHT. According to the octophonic system Stockhausen conceptualised the electronic sounds (meant to represent the chaotic soundfield of modern warfare) exist in three-dimensional space, with the audience listening inside a “cube of sound”. Berlin Atonal recreates Stockhausen’s octophonic set-up on its opening night, for a presentation of OKTOPHONIE projected by long time Stockhausen collaborator and director of the Stockhausen Foundation for Music, Kathinka Pasveer.
Ena + Rashad Becker present Oktophonic (World Premiere)
Main Stage 21:20
Japanese producer Ena and Berlin based musician Rashad Becker will collaborate on a new piece especially conceived for the Stockhausen Oktophonic set-up. The two artists previously worked together on a new piece for the first time in the context of Berlin Atonal’s New Assembly Tokyo festival in February, creating an exceptionally detailed soundscape, benefitting from Ena’s remarkable sound design and Rashad Becker’s masterful control of dynamics and spacing.
Carla dal Forno
Stage Null 00:30
Carla dal Forno – of F ingers and Tarcar – brings her laconic vocal style to centre stage for her eponymous solo project. Her dub-disoriented pop sensibilities leak through the sparse, Spartan arrangements, resulting in an honest, direct and unsentimental live show.
A favorite of Schmutz, check out one of our earliest album reviews here for Carla’s album, You Know What It’s Like.
Thursday, August 17th
LCC with Pedro Maia (German Premiere)
Main Stage 21:00
Editions Mego affiliates LCC are a duo from northern Spain. Working with Serge and Buchla 200 synthesisers, they recently completed a residency at the lauded EMS Stockholm studios. This new live A/V show is made in collaboration with Portuguese filmmaker and archivist Pedro Maia, and will be shown for the first time after its debut at Sonar festival in Barcelona.
Demdike Stare with Michael England (World Premiere)
Main Stage 23:00
Demdike Stare are the Manchester duo who unpredictably extract the best from ‘90s jungle, drum n bass, industrial and ambient techno sound design. Existing in the outskirts of convention and genre allows the pair to let their intuitive grasp of rhythm and sound breathe freely in their own rarefied air. At Berlin Atonal 2017 they present their own new live A/V show on the Main Stage with visuals by Michael England, while also curated a night at OHM under the auspices of their innovative DDS label.
Damien Dubrovnik presents Great Many Arrows (World Premiere)
Main Stage 00:00
Formed in 2009, Damien Dubrovnik is a Danish electronic duo of Christian Stadsgaard and Loke Rahbek, founders of the Copenhagen based record label Posh Isolation. In their day job as label managers, Stadsgaard and Rahbek have been instrumental in presenting and promoting a new Scandinavian expression and sound. As a label Posh Isolation has outgrown its humble beginning, achieving the cult status of cultural entity that serves as an outlet for experimental music and art through now 200 releases that have reached remarkably wide international fan following. The newest release by Damien Dubrovnik, Great Many Arrows, being label release number 200. Damien Dubrovnik is the duo’s longest running project that has published work across half a dozen LPs. Damien Dubrovnik’s live shows are well known for their raw intensity and expressiveness, incorporating elements of performance art and body acoustics into their powerful physical sound where harsh industrial meets poetic ambience to leave long lasting impression.
Goner is Berlin based sound artist and music producer Martin Maischein. His current release on Hospital Productions – Yogascum – circles around combining electronic soundsources with natural instruments, chief among the cello of noise artist UnterLala.
Mick Harris presents Fret (World Premiere)
Stage Null 02:00
The combined effect of Mick Harris’ work in the realms of music is hard to overstate. As the drummer for pioneering grindcore band Napalm Death he invented the blast beat – one of the defining tropes of all subsequent black metal and death metal. After leaving Napalm Death, Harris played drums for Doom and Extreme Noise Terror, started the projects Defecation and Scorn. His ambient and electronic productions – Quoit, Monrella – deserve better recognition as high-water marks of 90s and 00s electronica. The dark lord Mick Harris plays Berlin Atonal 2017 under his own name, presenting his Fret project.
LoneLady is Julie Campbell, a songwriter-musician-producer from Manchester, based in Manchester and London. Her two critically-acclaimed albums on Warp range from urgent, austere minimalism to post-punk funk, and Julie is currently resident at Somerset House Studios, London where she has built a new studio setup incorporating analogue sequencers and synths to work on her next album.
Stage Null 04:00
Pessimist, with his recent release on Blackest Ever Black, achieved a mix of ice-cold jungle and futuristic techno that put him squarely in a league of his own. Minimalistic but weighty, shape-shifting but exquisitely monotone, Pessimist somehow achieves a fusion out of what in lesser hands would remain contradictory, Berlin Atonal 2017 let’s him unpack more clearly his references and directions with a closing set on Stage Null.
Friday, August 18th
Yair Elazar Glotman presents Blessed Initiative (World Premiere)
Main Stage 20:00
Yair Elazar Glotman is a musician and sound artist living in Berlin. His compositions are currently concerned with analog tape loops, electronics and contrabass. He trained as a classical contrabass player, and has studied electroacoustic composition. For his Blessed Initiative project, Glotman utilises an ambiguous harmonic sphere constituted by microtunings, integrated into idiosyncratic rhythmical structures and concrete, almost-recognizable organic sounds, blending them all together to create a dissonant state of simultaneous highs and lows.
Puce Mary presents A Feast Before the Drought (World Premiere)
Main Stage 21:50
Puce Mary is the solo moniker of Copenhagen based noisenik Frederikke Hoffmeier. Since 2013 she has been invigorating industrial and noise music through the exquisite power of her releases on Posh Isolation and, especially, her transfixing live shows. For Berlin Atonal 2017 she has prepared a brand new live performance entitled A Feast Before the Drought.
Roly Porter + Paul Jebanasam present ALTAR (World Premiere)
Main Stage 23:30
ALTAR is a collaboration from Roly Porter and Paul Jebanasam based on a performance of ritual system music. A new approach uniting the technical and creative abilities of two of contemporary music’s most powerful composers, this project finds its world premiere in the context of Berlin Atonal 2017.
The Lefty (European Premiere)
The Lefty unites the two main forces behind the legendary Japanese label/collective Black Smoker – Killer Bong and Jube. To help Black Smoker celebrate its 20th year in the game, The Lefty link up for their European debut, taking hip-hop past its logical limits and into another realm.
Sissel Wincent is a Stockholm based producer and part of the 12-person collective of female and non-binary artists Drömfakulteten. Her pointillistic synth works range from aggressive stab fits to beautifully defined sonic textures.
Saturday, August 19th
Main Stage 19:30
Robert Rutman left Germany for Scandinavia in 1938, before attending refugee schools in England. In 1950 he left for the United States, becoming a travelling salesman. He fell in with the beat poets, establishing galleries and events in New York and Maine. He built his own instruments and scored works by Euripides, Shakespeare, Coleridge, Rilke, Thoreau, and others. In 1980 he gave a concert at the original Berlin Atonal event.
Fis + Renick Bell (World Premiere)
Main Stage 20:50
Renick Bell and Fis link up in search of next-level sonic happenings. Starting with an injection of Fis’ gastric, sinuous sound into the cutting-edge expressive power of Bell’s live-coded algorithms, their performance plays on apparent distinctions between their live modalities.
Shackleton + Anika with Strawalde + Pedro Maia present Behind the Glass (World Premiere)
Main Stage 21:40
Behind the Glass is the unapologetically ambitious new project coming out of the overlapping creative forces of Shackleton, Anika, Strawalde and Pedro Maia. Shackleton – of Skull Disco and Honest Jon’s semi-fame – provides a vivid backdrop of infinitely detailed sonic complexity that conjures up something between devotional music and avant trance with the use non-standard time signatures often running against each other, an unusual and occasionally atonal sound palette, repetitive melodic motifs and a blatant disregard for the conventional 3 minute song format. Over this canvas Anika – perhaps best known for her self-titled debut album -narrates a tale of love, longing, fate and compulsion which stretches out in the style of a surreal fable. Her deadpan vocals and priestlike sermons meanwhile stand in direct counterpoint to the tales of unbridled lust, fury and the themes of dominance and submission in the world of love, romance and all their related afflictions. The whole is
ably backed for the stage by keyboard maestro Takumi Motokawa and the human metronome Raphael Meinhart on mallets. The visual side sets Pedro Maia’s constructive and reconstructive filmic talents against the ink of legendary Berlin artist Strawalde.
Killer Bong (European Premiere)
Killer Bong aka K-Bomb is the Tokyo-based enfant terrible of Japanese experimental hip-hop and the head honcho of the long running left-field collective Black Smoker. Mutant jazz-infused beats spiral around distorted vocals, watching a live show of his has recently been described as like ‘gazing at an uncontrollable vehicle driving at full speed’.
Powell + Wolfgang Tillmans (World Premiere)
Main Stage 00:00
This premiere show sees Atonal regular and electronic music enfant terrible Powell on stage performing with Turner prize winning artist Wolfgang Tillmans. The two artists have been collaborating on music which will reach ears for the first time in this live A/V show.
Broken English Club
Stage Null 02:00
Oliver Ho’s early productions made clear his ability to inject a dark narrative into functional electronics. With Broken English Club, he delivers monotone vocals and shards of live instrumentation over stuttering beats and bleak synths. The blank-stared, pinpoint focused electronics and layers of noise betray no/wave and post punk influences, dragging together industrial experimentation and pitch-black techno.
Andy Maddocks is an entrepreneur and musician who founded Skam Records, an independent electronic label, in 1990. He is also a member of the almost mythical Gescom group with Darrell Fitton, Russell Haswell and perhaps some others. Maddocks recently toured Europe with Autechre, which brought him to OHM for the first time. Berlin Atonal gladly welcomes him back for a reprise.
Dark mysticism from the past swirls like winter winds around the pitch black atmosphere of Ulwhednar, the conjurers are Abdulla Rashim and Varg. They combines their musical styles into a collaborative effort producing dancefloor black magic.
Sunday, August 20th
Varg + AnnaMelina
Stage Null 18:00
AnnaMelina and Varg’s new collaboration explores the differences in their solo projects to find a common ground informed in equal parts by techno, bass drum, romantic synths and AnnaMelina’s vocals.
Stage Null ???
Matti Bye started his career 25 years ago composing and doing live improvisations to silent film and early cinema. Since the late 1980s, Bye has been employed by the Film House in Stockholm (“a hive of film-related activity”) and there he has created, in his own words, a “private world of music”. Bye will have a chance to present some of it during Varg’s curated Nordic Flora programme at Berlin Atonal 2016.
Belong play October Language
Main Stage 21:00
Belong is the New Orleans based project that blends early 1990s shoegaze, ambient electronica, and drone. Guitar based, heavily processed and distorted loops that seem to go on forever layer on top of each other creating unashamedly beautiful and powerful textures. Their 2006 album October Language was a high-water mark for this kind of often emulated and rarely mastered music and at Berlin Atonal they prepare a special set based on this material.
Pact Infernal (World Premiere)
Main Stage 22:00
Preferring to let their conceptually driven music stand in place of interviews and biographical information, Pact Infernal is the latest shadowy project to emerge from the impeccable Horo arsenal. The music arranges a broad palette of sonic resources into mutated tribalistic patterns, verging on but never quite fully settling with genres including ritual ambient and techno as well as those that haven’t been invented yet.
Pan Diajing presents Fist Piece (World Premiere)
Main Stage 23:00
Chinese performance artist and composer Pan Daijing presents at Berlin Atonal the world premiere of Fist Piece. “I am rubbing my eyes. I am putting it back. I am taking them away. I am stretching. I am holding. I am denying. I am losing.”
Check out our latest album review for Pan Daijing’s Lack here.
Emptyset is the project of James Ginzburg and Paul Purgas dedicated to examining the material properties of sound and its correspondence with architecture, performance and physical modes of production. This show marks the first time they have adapted their live presentation for Berlin Atonal and the sublime industrial grandeur of the Kraftwerk space working in collaboration with visual artist Sam Williams.
Lots of text and bios lifted from the Atonal website.