The final acts for the most spectacular edition of the Berlin Atonal Festival to date have been announced. The festival spans two weekends of concerts and club nights with world premieres, one-off shows and unexpected performances from some of the most interesting artists working in the multidisciplinary world of transnational culture today. In between the two weekends of concerts, there will be an exhibition and concert programme called Universal Metabolism, which transforms the festival into a series of performative interventions. The exhibition, called Universal Metabolism, is also part of the Berlin Art Week.
Fig. above: Berlin Atonal 2023, Frankie Casillo
All aspects of the festival, including the exhibition, will take place in the impressive Kraftwerk complex, including the Tresor Club, which is based there.
10 years after its revival, Atonal continues to pioneer experimental culture in all forms, and with this edition presents its most diverse and ambitious project to date. Berlin Atonal 2023 expands the logic of a music festival in a new direction.
Festival passes for all 10 event days are already sold out. Tickets are still available for each of the 3-day weekend programmes including the associated club nights, as well as day tickets and tickets for the Universal Metabolism exhibition.
Concert programme – First weekend
The opening night of Berlin Atonal promises a transformation of material, with dynamics constantly permeating the performances. Laurel Halo leads the powerhouse through a journey into the atmosphere of noir fog, blurring particles through modal expression, in the world premiere of her new live show. This is followed by Holy Tongue, the live trio consisting of Valentina Magaletti, Al Wooton and Susumu Makai, whose mystical and weighty dub dance exudes an ineffable heaviness, framed not least by the first of the three presentations of “Études For Church” by Florentina Holzinger. A wonderful search within our physical limits and beyond leads us to Rainy Miller’s unique performance of “A Fugue State”, with a moving experience of human spirituality. A specially commissioned collaboration by Caterina Barbieri, Space Afrika and visual designer MFO closes the main stage, exploring transcendence through the intimacy of auditory experiences and drawing shifting webs from a dialogue between their cybernetic and carnal soundscapes. Eros, the project of Regis, Einstürzende Neubauten’s sound engineer Boris Wilsdorf and My Disco’s Liam Andrews, lures you into a nocturnal world of dense physical mutations for the aftershow. For the club programme, visual artist Cyprien Gaillard has invited Chicago house luminary Traxx and L.I.E.S Records boss Ron Morelli for a special night at Tresor, while the Apeiron Crew aka (Solid Blake, Smokey and Mama Snake) celebrate a nightly reunion at Globus upstairs. OHM hosts Latency Records curators Sidney + Suleiman, as well as their partners Zakia, Stella Zekri and FAUZIA.
The first Friday of Berlin Atonal brings the exciting first live A/V performance of the legendary techno collective Sandwell District. For a long time this faceless organism has kept itself hidden, but now it steps out of the shadows for the first time. It roars with a rhythmic core that runs throughout the evening, from the dismantling of time with protopian electronics of Venus Ex Machina from London to the genre shaping and rule breaking of Par Grindvik and Peder Mannerfelt’s aasthma (both world premieres). In The Cell Of Dreams by Shackleton, Waclaw Zimpel and the Indian Carnatic singer Siddhartha Belmannu, parallel threads run to transcendence, mortality and the joys of life. Florentina Holzinger’s second site-specific intervention in her Études for Church series will take place, a reconfiguration of ecclesiastical gestures. A sprawling aftershow follows with performances by DJ Holographic, DJ Stingray 313, Rrose, Rhyw, Sigha, Simo Cell and special back-to-backs with Haruka and Wata Igarashi as well as DJ Spit and mad miran, among others.
The last night of the first weekend begins on Stage Zero with the TLF Trio, who build musical sculptures in a style that combines baroque with jazz and gritty cinematography. Florentina Holzinger makes a two-ton iron bell sound as part of her third and final iteration of Études For Church. Aho Ssan’s solo electronics and Sevi Iko Dømochevsky’s visuals merge in Rhizome’s AV, a new performance that explores the connections between roots and draws an organic, mutating universe of exploration of language and emotional responses. Delving even deeper into emotional dynamics, Honours THE BLOOD (2TEARS & A $UCKET) delves into realms as disturbing as they are compelling, recalling the apocalyptic visions and spiritual chasms described in the last chapter of the Bible. As a world premiere, Loraine James brings her new album Gentle Confrontation to the stage, where she moves between the different sound worlds of her past and present. Nkisi presents another world premiere. Entitled NTI-MA, she mobilises a highly performative sensory experiment using music and dance as a codified science to decode and recode ancient musical traditions and spiritual technologies for a contemporary musical experience. Elsewhere in the evening, rapper Zebra Katz presents the European premiere of Less is Moor, Jack Dove literally explodes fireworks on stage, and Kraftwerk welcomes the first Berlin appearance of the lively Swiss crew Somatic Rituals. December b2b Katatonic Silentio and OK Williams visit the Tresor and DJ Plead, Big Ever and rRoxymore are in action at OHM.
Concert Programme – Second Weekend
Billy Bultheel’s The Thief’s Journal is a new performance and installation that activates the power plant through spatialised instrumentalists. It is based on sychoacoustic effects that trace parallels between the sacred and the industrial. Atelier Impopulaire and Dreamcrusher present Crosscurrents, a unique performance where images and voices merge into a polyphonic poetry that revisits experiences from before the Black Arts Movement. Marco Fusinato adapts DESASTRES from the Venice Biennale, a stroboscopic wall of amplified guitar noise and black and white images, for the first time for a performative setting. What you can’t see, you can feel: Sound as physical matter, creating a transformative experience. The aftershow brings a world premiere from Persher, Pariah and Blawan’s new band that draws influences from heavy noise, metal and hardcore, and then uncompromising club dimensions from Crystallmess and Washington DC supergroup Black Rave Culture, while ¥ØU$UK€ ¥UK1MAT$U contributes one of his “you had to be there” DJ constructions. In the clubrooms, Upsammy, Buttechno, Djrum, Shinedo, DJ Marcelle, Ziúr and Shannen SP are among the acts featured.
Saturday’s concert programme begins on Stage Zero with the syncretic mix of perma-hillbilly trance, Byzantine newbeat and acid rock’n’roll of Christian Love Forum from Thessaloniki. On the main stage, CORIN plays Lux Aeterna, a new live set based on material from their UIQ album that explores the possibilities of a collective, heightened consciousness in times of crisis. The main stage is bathed in dense colours by Carmen Villain’s vibrant tapestries of sound, whosehypnotic slow motion simultaneously suggests intimacy and blurred distance. The scenographic changes at the Kraftwerk make possible Blackhaine’s ambitious new project Paith, a world premiere with containers and several dancers. The duo Paul Purgas and James Ginzburg, also known as Emptyset, present a show with brand new material based on the project’s roots in structural percussion and physical sound. In the aftershow, Prison Religion unleashes dystopian soundscapes that manifest in caustic noise, heavy beats reminiscent of public gunfire, muttered screams like breaking glass, pounding techno or massive drones. Joining them at OHM are Actress, Mia Koden, Tom Boogizm, special guest DJ, Mister Water Wet, Pontiac Streator and Huerco S. Kode9, Pariah, Lydo, AceMoma and Verraco will be at Tresor and Globus.
In the 10 years since the relaunch of Berlin Atonal, Alessandro Cortini has been ever-present with the new projects he presented at the festival. He returns with a special live improvisation entitled Nati Infiniti, in which an earlier sound installation of the same name is reconfigured as a unique, evolving dialogue, accompanied by live visual elements by Marco Ciceri. Pavel Milyakov and Perila team up for pxmxper, where site-specific recitations and installations explore the threshold between the outdoors and indoors of an ongoing performance, gently shifting the gap between the audience and the sound makers. Elvin Brandhi + KMRU introduce their new project A||oy on the main stage, before Blawan presents a special live performance on the theme of shape-shifting. The Bug breaks down the boundaries between genres, scenes and cultures, creating earth-shattering walls of bass and noise over which Grime MC Flowdan spits pure power. Dubstep legend Mala’s thunderous performances scrape unexplored realms, digging and dredging the foundations of the power plant to end up there for another year, while at OHM the party really gets going with Tikiman + Richard Akingbehin, Azu Tiwaline, Pearson Sound, quest?onmarq and Teki Latex.
Exhibition – Universal Metabolism
Universal Metabolism, an exhibition taking place over four days in September and flanked by two weekends of festival programming, represents an ambitious starting point for Berlin Atonal, further challenging the creative potential of the Kraftwerk mega-complex and expanding the mode of artistic communication within its function as a music festival. Following the formal experiments of its groundbreaking predecessor Metabolic Rift, which took place in 2021, the exhibition invites the audience on a performative journey through artworks created or adapted for the building. Between audiovisual works, performance, in-situ sculptures, video art and immersive sound environments, these works materialise and dissolve in a dynamic temporal sequence, each day ending with a specific performative, concert-based destination. The starting point is the physical and out-of-body cycles of exchange, reconstruction and transformation. Like a body, the ebb and flow of energy and material conveys a fluctuating intensity. With the sparse building, the exhibition borrows from theatre to create a stage- and seat-less auditorium where the protagonists merge with the audience.
Visiting the exhibition will immerse the audience in constant states of change and fluctuating intensity, where seemingly static artworks defy all rigidity. Bridget Polk will be present throughout the exhibition, reconfiguring Reclaimed Damages by assembling precarious sculptural forms over time that are ephemeral reflections on the past, the present and the personal in dialogue with the audience and other works in the exhibition. Hidden Resonance X Kraftwerk is a sound installation by Rabon Aibo in which industrial gas cylinders have been transformed into sound-producing machines. Through the use of kinetic motors, these interact with the sound of the old piping infrastructure in the power plant building. The sound resembles an echo from the past that reverberates in the present and questions the changing contexts of a post-industrial age. Trioesque by Ain Bailey is an atmospheric musical composition that takes the listener on a captivating sonic journey and pays homage to jazz trios. It is an adaptation of the Kraftwerk Room, based on sound recordings from the underworld of the Deutzer Brücke in Cologne. Laxlan Petras and Yasmin Saleh perform a travelling opera without a stage or fixed scenography, in which they conduct rubbing dialogues through approaches in space.
Mire Lee will create a hanging fabric installation in which worn, torn fabrics are immersed in viscous clay. Over the course of the exhibition, the clay absorbed by the “skin” of the work will be slowly diluted by water. The exhibition promises a misty viscerality as a space to question human fantasies about technologies that are at odds with the realities of subjects that decay and deform over time. The video installation The Third Reich by the legendary theatre and opera director Romeo Castellucci will be shown for the first time in Germany. The large-scale video work is preceded by a symbolic action in which a performer brings to life a ceremony in which language is “ignited”. The sound that accompanies the installation was composed by Scott Gibbons and will be apodictic. DESASTRES by Marco Fusinato, specially adapted for the Australian Pavilion’s performance at last year’s Venice Biennale, will appear and disappear like a hallucination throughout the exhibition. Renowned British producer Actress contributes a sound piece that reconnects the exhibition to its roots as a music festival, while VALIE EXPORT presents a “sound sculpture” made from the discarded pipes of the Sieben Schmerzen Mariaeat pilgrimage basilica in Linz, the artist’s birthplace. The galvanised pipes of an organ dangle like stalactites, others cast slender, pointed shadows on the glass walls. Smaller pipes made of lead can also be seen on the floor. The pipes are no longer sacred sounding bodies that bring peace and salvation, but terrifying projectiles that bring destruction and death.
Exhibition – Concerts
Each evening of the exhibition ends with a concert after the final screening of Castellucci’s The Third Reich. On Tuesday, Robin Fox presents his polysensory laser performance Triptych, followed on Wednesday by a performance by the transdisciplinary British artist KLEIN and on Thursday by a performance for several instrumentalists orchestrated by Billy Bultheel entitled The Thief’s Journal.
20:00 Romeo Castellucci, The Third Reich
21:00 Robin Fox, Tryptich
20:00 Romeo Castellucci, The Third Reich
21:00 KLEIN, DJ Drop
20:00 Romeo Castellucci, The Third Reich
21:00 Billy Bultheel, The Thief’s Journal
Exhibition – Afterparties
Universal Metabolism’s first afterparty sees Ash Luk, CCL, Chloe Lula, Ireen Amnes, Nadia Struiwigh, Nandele, Orson b2b DJ Hops and Kiernan Laveaux take over the Tresor and Globus for a massive midweek rave.
Tresor hosts Anthony Linell + Jessie Granqvist, Arthur, E-Sagilla, Evigt Mörker, Fadi Mohem, Lundin Oil, Struktur and Vallmo on Thursday 14 September for a midweek afterparty.
Join us at OHM on 12 and 13 September for workshops in collaboration with Loop Session by Ableton, Neumann & Sennheiser, Orchestral Tools, Hearing Berlin and Your Mom’s Agency. The workshops are free, but registration via DICE is required to reserve a place as space is limited.
Tuesday, 12/09/2023 – 18-19 PM
Orchestral Tools presents a hands-on workshop with Alexander Hacke from the legendary avant-garde band Einstürzende Neubauten and hackedepicciotto. Alexander will dive deep into drone composition and talk about inspiration, the power of sound and combining layers to create new soundscapes. Participants are encouraged to bring a laptop and headphones and join us in creating their own sounds.
Orchestral Tools and Neumann, together with Sennheiser, present a Pop-up Track Clinic Session. Participants can receive personal feedback on their compositions and get advice from our mentors: DJ, producer and label owner Mor Elian and Artist Relations Director Boris Kümmerer from Neumann.
Wednesday 13.09.2023 – 6-10PM
Loop Session is an event series by Ableton. Loop brings together female artists, technologists, educators and creative thinkers from around the world, connecting a global music-making community with new ideas and inspiration for their creative practice. Loop invites Shapednoise to speak about hearing health, followed by a guided listening session with another artist from the Atonal programme. Participants will be able to share their thoughts with the stage guests and discover new music on a club sound system. Thanks to the partnership with Loop, it will also be possible to reserve a place to receive discounted custom hearing protection from Hearing Berlin, the hearing protection specialists for all forms of noise cancellation and reduction.
In conversation with Shapednoise
The ear is one of the most sensitive organs in the human body. Our ability to absorb, understand, imitate, respond to and appreciate music depends on a complex process that begins in a very sensitive part of our body that can also be irreversibly damaged by over-exposure to sound. Shapednoise recorded his latest album after an unexpected hearing loss that prevented him from producing music, DJing or attending music events. In this session, he will talk to presenter Jenna Jones about this experience and how it forced him to rethink his work and come to terms with the precarious materiality of his body.
There is a way of listening that overrides all other senses and leaves us with the blank, empty gaze of a person who has temporarily left their earthly body for a higher plane. It can take us beyond casual consumption into a spiritual space closer to creation – we can actively think about what the artist has done, how and why she did it, and what we might want to do ourselves. These moments are precious for music makers and music lovers alike, but they don’t happen every day, and when they do, we are often alone in the experience. This event invites you to spend some time with a respected artist in an intimate listening environment and participate in a guided discussion to express the thoughts and connection points that arise when listening to music together.
Power Station + Vault
Köpenicker Str. 70
Thursday, 07.09.2023 – Saturday, 09.09.2023
Friday, 15.09.2023 – Sunday, 17.09.2023
Details see above