Berlin Atonal can often feel like you are in a cavernous abandoned factory—listening to drone soundscapes not unlike those used by David Lynch is his Twin Peaks revival—with flickering light installations accenting the shadowed ambience.
Indeed, the mainstage area can feel like a massive exercise in transcendental meditation, but that is only a small fraction of the overall experience that is Berlin Atonal.
Another aspect of the Festival is the lively and chaotic modular synth area called the Schaltzentrale, “the control centre”, where synth enthusiasts can lose control with disobedient machines for unyielding hours that would seem to transport a passerby into a sci fi analog parallel universe.
Speaking of parallel, part of the festival, but in adjacent venues from the main venue Kraftwerk are of course Ohm and Tresor for the more Techno fare—with sets from Errorbeauty and Dj Stingray being highlights over the course of five evenings.
The first night of the festival had an incredible live performance from Blackest Ever Black Artist Carla dal Forno who included among her onstage gear—an actual guitar—producing an arguably (at times) audibly superior performance to the quality found on her 2016 record You Know What It’s Like, which contained the soft pulsing daydreams Fast Moving Cars and What You Gonna Do Now.
Night number 2 belonged to Damien Dubrovnik—the duo that owns Danish label Posh Isolation, who brought an angry strobed kinesis of noise with a Great Many Arrows. This was in contrast the the forlorn lamentations of last year slow rose tinted aural performance art display of Croatian Amor’s Love Means Taking Action.
“Mick Effing Harris” also won the night, as was the consensus of colleagues and friends posting their enthusiasm via social media mid set, along with another Blackest Ever Black artist, Pessimist’s woven rhythmic textures.
Night number 3’s highlights were a mainstage onslaught of Puce Mary presents A Feast Before the Drought, followed by Main / Regis, and then Roly Porter + Paul Jebanasam present ALTAR.
Night number 4 was hands down the best of the festival, and in our editorial opinion, the best of Atonal since it’s revival. This was due to two performances in particular:
The first being Shackleton + Anika with Strawalde + Pedro Maia present Behind the Glass, which was a mesmerizing multimedia performance where each contribution had merit to stand on it’s own. Chanteuse Annika, who normally sounds like the second coming of Nico, channeled a cosmic brilliance that you would expect from a 4AD Records artist during the mid to late 80s.
This mixed with Atonal veteran Shackleton, who was joined by ‘keyboard maestro’ Takumi Motokawa and ‘the human metronome’ Raphael Meinhart on mallets to create tribal bell reverberations that only increased the interdimensional feel of the music of the LP Behind the Glass—which to our ears is reminiscent of what Goblin did for the score to Susperia—except replacing that distinct feeling of dread with a tearful euphoria.
And yes, this performance quite literally ‘behind the glass’ with the beautiful backdrop of Pedro Maia’s filmwork set against the cascading ink of Berlin artist Strawalde.
The next noteworthy performance on Saturday night was undeniable Broken English Club’s domination of the Null stage, capturing the same intensity that allies Phase Fatale, and Silent Servant did on the Jealous God stage one year prior. This was a melange of Post-Punk influenced EBM, Techno, Industrial bliss that left no doubt how brutally formidable Oliver Ho is as an electronic music musician.
The final night saw memorable performances from Pact Infernal and Pan Daijing on the mainroom, and Swan Meat on the Null stage, followed by a set by DJ Stingray in OHM to end our experience with Berlin Atonal 2017.
This year removed any doubt that Berlin Atonal is one of the most important events in the world for art and music. Attendance is essential if you are a musician or visual artist, analog or digital, or someone who needs to experience the cutting edge and sonic expression. This is indeed the event that bridges the gap between Post-Punk, Industrial, Noise, and Techno.
We are already looking forward to next year!
*Featured Photo | Berlin Atonal 2017 © Camille Blake