The city’s premier festival for sonic and visual arts, Berlin Atonal, returns next week in the fifth year of its current incarnation.
Taking place at Kraftwerk Berlin on Wednesday 16th to Sunday 20th August, Berlin Atonal offers an unparalleled lineup of electronic and experimental music, encompassing the expected hard-edged 4/4 of Dimitiri Hegemann’s club venture, Tresor, alongside contemporary classical, noise, drone and ambience.
Denmark’s Posh Isolation records looms large over this year’s roster.
With sets from cathartic power electronics experimentalist Puce Mary, cacophonous technoise brutalist Varg and an exclusive performance from label founders Loke Rahbek and Christian Starsgaard’s project Damien Dubrovnik (who will premiere their new A/V show Great Many Arrows on Thursday night).
Posh Isolation, which recently celebrated its 200th release, has steadily established itself in recent years as a go-to purveyor of noise, fractured ambience and dark techno, alongside the likes of Dominic Fernow’s Hospital Productions and Blackest Ever Black.
Indeed, the latter labels are represented at this year’s Berlin Atonal by (amongst others) the icy post-punk pop of Carla del Forno, the churning dancefloor clatter of Bristol’s Pessimist (both Blackest Ever Black) and ex-Sub Pop noise loons and prolific Instagram psyjazz meme lords Wolf Eyes, whose superb Always Wrong is one of a number of their releases to see the light via Hospital.
The festival will also feature a bespoke octophonic sound system.
Wednesday will see the inaugural outing of this system with a performance of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Oktophonie, a spacial acousmatic piece produced for the festival under the guidance of his long-term collaborator and Director of the Stockhausen Foundation for Music, Kathinka Pasveer. A number of other artists will play specially-commissioned pieces through this system during the festival.
Wednesday will also witness a performance from the recently-reactivated BBC Radiophonic Workshop, sadly minus the pioneering, peerless Delia Derbyshire, but surely eager to prove that there are more strings (or knobs and dials) to their proverbial bow than the ubiquitous Doctor Who theme.
It’s hard to condense the sheer scope of what’s on offer here.
To offer edited highlights seems almost disingenuous, but here goes. Manchester’s Warp-signed Lonelady offers an early-hours DJ set on Thursday night – expect the kind of Cabaret Voltaire and A Certain Ratio-infused post-punk industrial funk found on her most recent album, Hinterland. The legendary Mick ‘Tornado’ Harris – the former Napalm Death drummer and John Zorn collaborator best known in electronic circles for the titanic, speaker-fucking dub of Scorn and the glacial ambience of Lull – will perform with his electro project Fret.
Loop founder and sometime Godflesh collaborator Robert Hampson will reactivate his project Main once again, this time alongside Downwards techno don (and one half of British Murder Boys) Regis. Ivan Pavlov, aka Coil collaborator CoH, will perform on Thursday. Saturday sees the debut performance of Behind the Glass, from acclaimed vocalist Anika and the frankly uncategorisable producer Shackleton, the latter fresh from a potential album of the year with his Vengeance Tenfold collaboration, Sferic Ghost Transmits.
As for the rest? Check the lineup and draw your own conclusions. A veritable smorgasbord of cutting edge sound and vision.
Get your tickets to Berlin Atonal here.
Words, opinions and elongated metaphors by Simon Jones.
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