Berlin Atonal 2017

I’ve been meaning to attend Berlin’s Atonal festival for sonic and visual art for many years. Founded in 1982, the original festival closed in 1990 and reopened in 2013 in a huge abandoned powerplant in Berlin-Mitte, called Kraftwerk Berlin. So when I moved to London this past spring I had less of an excuse for traveling only a few hours for five days of music. I’ll admit, I was a little bit worried, the lineup looked immense, and knowing the acts on the roster I expected some dark, noisy, and sound pressure-level piercing frequencies… and that’s what I got. The experience was enhanced (if that is the right word) by the gloomy industrial atmosphere of the venue, mixed with all flavors of smoke, Germans dressed in all black, and a heavy weight of some history…

As usual, during the festival, I take some notes on the acts that I witness. Then, the next day I spend a few hours writing about the night, crafting my thoughts from a few bits of unintelligible fragments into a coherent article to be published when I return. I’ve followed the same formula for many years, and last November, when I attended Krakow’s Unsound festival, when I returned home, my laptop was dead. Yes, I knew that I could and should have had written “in the cloud”, but for whatever reason, that option escaped me and I lost all of the words I have worked on for days. I was furious. I almost abandoned the entire enterprise of covering festivals and music events altogether. This time I wised up. What if I shared my instantly forming thoughts in about 140 characters or less and used social media for what it was intended to be?

And so I did. And that’s what you get. Below is an archive of my live-tweeted observations of Atonal (in proper chronological order), as an archive of my experience. Maybe you’ll enjoy…

Aug 16
9:12 Hello … I am here 🙂 @ Kraftwerk Berlin
9:48 First thing’s first. Dear Germans, why do you still smoke indoors? I already had to step out twice to breathe & I’ve only been here an hour!
9:52 Right now Ena and are making alien sounds crawl out of these speakers…
10:03 Sounds of the dying octosects, crawlhoppers, & nitroflies are squiggling their way through the audible spectrum
10:32 Abstract industrial orchestration with elements of glitchy symphonic & choral whirlpools in oktophonic surround by
10:47 Meanwhile downstairs at OHM is playing an track. Been meaning to hear it this loud. Nice one, Chris!
10:48 But I’ve never heard a Portishead track being mixed into Ben Frost before, lol 🙂 I’m smiling for the first time this night 🙂
11:45 Ooh, 70s space music with guitars, theremin, drums and synth arpeggios by at “Art is nothing without science”
12:30 As usual, Demdike Stare does not disappoint, with their eclectic selection of tunes that are only Demdike Stare worthy

Aug 17
8:22 Right now, Shaun Baron-Carvais (Shlømo) is layering ambient synth sweeps that just got an infusion of a driving kick rhythm
9:35 And now is experimenting in a live improv with modular synths in a control room for a power station
9:47 Meanwhile CoH is playing a weird mix of distorted guitar with a bizarre quadruple syncopated technoid beats and drones at OHM
9:50 Just shared a beer with a nice gentleman from Manchester… oh wait, he recognized me as HC… oh wait it’s Sean from Demdike Stare
10:27  is mesmerizing the audience with his frequency rich thick synth layers and gasping for air bass at
11:30 Right now Demdike Stare and Michael England are f’ng killing it with a hair raising combination of evil sights and sounds
00:55 Damien Dubrovnik is raising ancient demons from a concrete abandoned communist asylum with his pleading voice

Aug 18
6:47 watching some pretty messed up abstract Polish animation from the 60s at
8:35 Yair Elazar Glotman is dropping immense bass structures over the textural spheres of his Blessed Initiative act
9:19 Belief Defect is jarring its nihilistic soundtrack to Apocalypse with subterranean noise and rage
10:35 Ok. Puce Mary‘s “A Feast Before the Draught” is just pure evil horror insanity. In a good way of course.
10:45 I swear I’d record this, but I don’t want to break the cheap analog to digital converter in my iPhone with these frequencies!
10:56 The music of Frederikke Hoffmeie makes me feel completely the opposite of happy and yet I feel happy for feeling that way…
11:17 Main / Regis ripping through the fabric of sound pressure levels with a technoid clash. And the zombies begin to dance
11:37 I just want you to know that writing about this type music in 140 characters is hard, mostly because the punchline to my sentence is always
00:38  and are on with some stabbing lightnings and sweeping granular rainbows of harmonic spectrum
00:54 now:// freshly sharpened straight edge techno sliding down your stubble with a purposeful tickle downstairs

Aug 19
5:10 Berlin sometimes feels like the government said “oh, you think you can do it better? Then figure it out on your own” …and the people have
8:21 Anthony Linell (aka Abdulla Rashim of Northern Electronics) is layering ambient pads over droney sweeps and gray light
9:05 Fis + Renick Bell are scraping the inside of my cranium with percussive noise, aluminum stabs, and cement-heavy bass
9:31 Walking outside of the festival sometimes I can’t tell if it’s the sounds of an espresso machine or the next performing artist
10:16 Shackleton + Anika are gathering rhythmic storms with sermons narrating a “tale of love, longing, fate and compulsion”
11:23  (finally) with some raw charging emotion. Even atonal noise can have feelings. Highlight of the night!

Aug 20
6:52 5th day of . I’ll admit I’m a bit fatigued and drained from all the sonic exposure. Even a sunny day wasn’t enough to recharge.
8:57 What’s going on at the main stage? Auto-tuned hip-hop with some half naked dude on the stage? Is that Varg? I’m confused!
9:34 Varg and AnnaMelina are streaming jealousy synth songs over organic flora and bass drums with a solid stage presence at
10:37 And now… something I’ve been looking forward to for a while… Belong play October Language Now I’m complete 🙂
00:00 OK. Gotta go… I’m done…


Words by HC