Third’s time charm… that’s the saying we could apply when we decided to check out the Berlin Atonal one more time after being resurrected after such a long hiatus.
For the first year of this [resurrected] festival in 2013, we were totally thrilled by its approach of showcasing the experimental music. The year after, 2014, we were still quite enchanted by most of performances although some seemed to sound a bit similar compared to others. When we spotted the program announcements for 2015, it was just difficult to resist the temptation — unique collaborations between artists, rare performances and together with the astonishing venue of former powerplant [Kraftwerk], you just can’t say no.
The 2015 put on the table artists like Faust & Tony Conrad, synth magician Alessandro Cortini or the king of the darkness Lustmord. From its five-day program there were definitely a lot of options to choose from. Some of artists were asked to return to the Atonal, although with a new and often very unique collaborations or performances. 2015 has been also special in its slight difference in the time tables– in previous years, the program in the main room of Kraftwerk usually ended till 2 a.m. and then continued with aftershows held in Tresor or other clubs. 2015 brought the option of “stage null”, situated in a ground floor of the powerplant and with a start of its program just after last show at main floor it offerend another good option to continue. Together with classical aftershows held at Tresor, Ohm and Globus, there were seriously enough options for having a decent night out.
But what was the main reason why we decided to come back for the third time? It’s pretty simple. The venue and its sound! For such kind of music, it is actually pretty hard to find a better venue or maybe even a better city to make a festival like that. Berlin has always had a special artistic atmosphere which simply suits to musical experiments and creates the right base for them.
An abandoned powerplant in the heart of city with brilliant natural echo can be a half of win; the rest is up on artists and the crowd as well. These elements appeared to be quite crucial for 2015. From what we have seen during our three-days exploration, artist’s perfromances were definitely much more distinct and unique comparing the previous year (although the ambient / noise genre outbalanced again). A bit of mixed feelings were caused by the crowd though that often didn’t react and at some gigs this important feeling in the air which can add something special on the top was missing at times. On the other hand, who seeked for a more intense interaction between audience and artist or just a party atmosphere, there was the option to go that few steps to Tresor and there was all of it.
Nevertheless we had a such great time, seen many amazing performances and tasted nice food. Berlin Atonal delivers without any doubt one of the best showcases of experimental music in Europe and is worth visiting for sure. Below you can find our favorite top 3 acts of each of the days we attended the Atonal:
THURSDAY: SUMS (Kangding Ray & Barry Burns of Mogwai)
When post-rock meets techno… Connection of Kangding Ray’s heavy techno beats and magical guitar riffs of Barry Burns together with drums (played by Merlin Ettore) and contrabass (played by Robert Lucaciu) delivered a totally brilliant musical experience, maybe one of the best ones from all of ours Atonal visits. Hard to find the definition of what these guys played. It had a certain magic, great beats and haunting atmosphere. Do we need more? No.
FRIDAY: Ugandan Methods (Regis & Ancient Methods)
Musical partnership between Downwards label boss Karl O’Connor and sonic experimentator Ancient Methods became our highlight for Friday night. Their rare live performance delivered exceptional forms of technoid breakbeats in connection with pure heavy beats and tribal feelings. The whole performance was brought up on next level thanks to screening of 20s black & white movie Passion of Joan of Arc.
SATURDAY: Shackleton presents Powerplant
Minimalism, pure tribalism, even a ritual feeling. Shackleton’s special Atonal show titled Powerplant may be together with SUMS one of the best ones at all. Instrument palette within this show was just spectacular — drums, xylophones, gong and of course lots of machines. Same as SUMS, hard to describe exactly what has happened there, all that’s left is just an incredible and hypnotic feeling.