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Preview: Berlin Atonal Festival (Aug 24 - Aug 28, 2016)

Picture of Lily Cichanowicz
Updated: 27 July 2016
The Berlin Atonal is a five-day festival focusing on sonic and visual art. It offers an atmospheric culmination of sights and sounds in Kraftwerk, the ideal venue with state of the art sound systems and plenty of exhibition space. Last week Atonal announced this year’s lineup.

The Berlin Atonal offers a perfect synthesis of music and visual artistic installations. DJs play while entrancing visual elements are projected on enormous screens behind them, making for performances that are utterly mesmerizing. Crowds are enveloped in fog and light while the pulsing vibrations of the bass reverberate through the body.

While the festival is highly anticipated, the atmosphere is sober. The music is often minimalist and experimental producing sounds that are rather harsh and mechanical. This setting, however, draws the Berlin underground scene’s most quintessential characters with the majority of attendees dressed in a sea of black. Expect to encounter Berghain regulars, veteran middle-age punks, and waif-like fashionistas with pouty expressions and perfectly smudged eye makeup.

The Atonal Festival dates back to 1982 as a platform for publicly expressing ambient, techno, and industrial sounds among other musical forms within the sonic arena. This festival had an important influence on the electronic and experimental music zeitgeists of the 1980s. Electronic beats had this to say about the impact of the festival on Berlin:

‘The first Berlin Atonal Festival in 1982 belongs to the category of events that have the power to change our perception of a city entirely… the festival coined Berlin as a city that originated serious, existentialist music.’ – Electronic Beats, 12.07.13

After the fall of the wall in 1990, the Atonal was put to a halt, and one of its founding members, Dimitri Hegemann, went on to start the popular nightclub Tresor. Hegemann didn’t lose his loyalty in the project, however. In 2013, the Berlin Atonal was revived as he offered a suitable—and perhaps utterly perfect—venue for the festival at Kraftwerk in Mitte, an abandoned power plant and industrial complex where Tresor itself was relocated in 2007. The entire festival takes place here, utilizing the massive space to its fullest capacity. The vast multilevel warehouse is furbished with concrete pillars, laser shows, fog machines, and more.

Since its reopening in 2013, the festival has also seen a steady increase in performers and artist who are participating in the program. Last year, more than a hundred were involved. For audiences that are not as familiar with experimental music, the program typically leaves a lot to be discovered because many of these artists are not well known in the musical mainstream. This only adds to the wow-effect that comes with experiencing these artists for the first time in such an immersive setting.

This year’s lineup will include performances by both new and well-established visual and musical artists.

Alessandro Cortini will be returning after an enormously popular and moving performance last year. This year his audiovisual show, ‘AVANTI’, will feature footage of his grandparents. Get ready for a truly unique and evocative production.

Also playing at the Atonal is Russell Haswell. In conjunction with Peter Rehberg of PITA and collective Farmers Manual, he will curate a stage with the intention of conjuring the 90s vibes of his heyday at this comeback show on the opening night. This performance will last for three full hours.

Meanwhile, Recent Arts, a duo consisting of the famous German musician Tobias Freund and Chilean visual artist Valentina Barthelon, will be putting on their new ‘The History of Darkness’ show for the first time. It will feature complex sound techniques and astronomical imagery.

The Atonal Festival is truly unique to Berlin and a techno lover’s dream. At no other event will you find a more cohesive blending of sonic and visual elements, which create a dreamy and immersive experience.

More on the festival lineup can be found here: