We are nearing the end of August and that means a couple things - first, summer is coming to a close and second, it's time for Berlin Atonal. Since re-launching the iconic festival in 2013, it has once again become the preeminent showcase for sound and visual art in the world. Housed in the jaw dropping venue of Kraftwerk in Berlin-Mitte, each year builds upon the next and the lineups feature some of the most groundbreaking acts from across the electronic spectrum. 2018 is no different as we are greeted with five days of performances, art installations and after parties. The festival is set to begin on Wednesday, August 22nd and we now bring you our festival guide with some Brvtalist picks to help your way through the dizzying array of options. (see below)
Wednesday, August 22nd
Opening night always comes with much excitement. Starting at 18:30, Stage Null (which is located to the side of the entrance) sees iconic producer David Morley commence with one of his stunning ambient performances that will set the tone for what's to come. Up on the Main Stage at 20:00, Copenhagen's Astrid Sonne with be the first act to perform. Her live A/V show titled "Ephemeral" will premiere on this night and has been designed for choir, viola and electronics. Expect beautiful compositions which will also feature various other artists and our first chance to see visuals on the breathtaking big screen.
Another nice act to catch is Berlin-based, Colombian artist Lucrecia Dalt. "Syncline" is a site specific live work which accompanies her latest release, "Anticlines", which showcases Dalt's gentle, yet powerful works which see sonic geological forms commingling with gaseous particles and planetary waves. Following Dalt, Persian virtuoso Mohammad Reza Mortazavi shows us how he has revolutionized the wood drum instrument as he teams with New Zealander Fils for a performance of ceremonial energies. Closing the main stage is festival favorite Robin Fox. His "Single Origin" laser show is the newest work which never fails to dazzle the crowd with its unforgettable mix of light and sound.
The night does not end here as the stroke of midnight sees the opening of Stage Null and finds the jazz-rap of Killer-Oma, the dub reggae of Jay Glass Dubs and more. If those sounds are not your thing, no problem as Ohm will also be open from 20:00 with a set from Tutu, which is always an unexpected journey where you might hear everything from acid techno to cosmic trance. Also at Ohm, Lena Willikens (who has been taking the world by storm as of late) plays at 00:00. I would also stick around until 3:30 to catch Vancouver's LNS as she plays furious sets of electro, bass, jungle and more which will pound you into the morning.
Tresor also opens at 00:00 where we recommend the live show of Russia's PTU and a set from Lisbon's Photonz (4:00), an underground producer and DJ who is also known for starting a sex-positive, queer and intersectional-feminist techno party which exists to suspend reality in a place outside the patriarichal structure.
Thursday, August 23rd
Doors open at 18:00 and Day Two begins with a film screening of "The Four Worlds" by Mark Pritchard and Jonathan Zawada. This is the accompanying film to the album of the same name which was released to rave reviews on Warp Records. Up first on the Main Stage (20:00) is a powerful work by Glasgow composer Iona Fortune. Her "Chaotic Profusion" performance explores the hexagrams of the I-Ching and she investigates Eastern philosophy with extraordinary atmospheres and rhythms. Fortune joins a new cadre of artists linked with John Hassell's "Fourth World" concept. We also recommend seeing Swedish master Klara Lewis (Main Stage, 21:00). Field recordings fuse with momentum building rhythms to form a vast, expansive experience and the live A/V show will surely not disappoint. Perhaps the biggest draw of the night will be Neon Chambers (Main Stage, 22:00), the new project from Kanding Ray + Sigha. Atonal will host the live A/V world premiere and experiencing these two artists together will be a real treat. Few producers operate in the worlds of techno and unorthodox electronics like Ray and Signha and this could be a festival highlight.
Thursday's Stage Null is also quite strong with some of the best names in wave, synth and more playing live. From Alessandro Adriani (1:00), to minimal master Le Syndicat Electronique (2:00) and Bruta Non Calculant (5:00) fans of dark, synth driven acts will want to stay to the end.
Ohm opens up at 20:00 with DJ Marcelle of radio show Another Nice Mess and we recommend catching Mun Sing (1:00), the Bristolian producer who is also 1/2 of fan favorite Giant Swan (also playing the fest). Sing's primitive club sounds and militaristic drums will sound great on Ohm's system. Also playing Ohm is Japan's Lil Mofo (23:00) and Changsie (5:00). The later comes highly recommended after a standout set at New Codes and you can expect everything from dub step to techno and beyond.
Friday, August 24th
All that and we are just getting started. Friday's programming is even more astounding with doors at 18:00 and the first act taking the stage at 20:00 (Esi + Octacheron's "Fear Pollution"). Chevel is up next and following him at 22:00 is Pariah's "Here From Where We Are". Just recently released on Houndstouth, Pariah (Arthur Cayzer) is an artist who has gone through extreme musical spectrums from punk to dubstep and more. "Here From Where We Are" came out back in July and quickly became a critics' favorite for its powerful digital environments and imaginative worlds. There are few better places than Berlin Atonal to see this act.
Following Pariah is another one of the most anticipated acts of the festival with Hiro Kone's "Pure Expenditure" (23:00). The New York City-based artist and Drew McDowell collaborator released what many feel is one of the best albums of the year and this live world premiere will expose Nicky Mao's morbid layers of rhythms and complex exploration of the human psyche. Don't sleep on this one. Closing out the Main Stage at 00:00 is iconic duo British Murder Boys. Regis and Surgeon are two legends of the techno and industrial genres and it is a rare appearance to see them perform together (the first time in over a decade in Germany). This crushing experiment in techno will bring together fans of all genres and the floor will be moving.
Flowing from the British Murder Boys, Stage Null opens at 1:00 with Downwards Records' 25th Anniversary event. Featuring new and old acts, the stage will be graced by Layne, current favorites Giant Swan (3:45) and Brvtalist featured artists Ora Iso (1:55). Kathleen Malay and Jason Kudo, now based in Jakarta and New Hampshire respectively, will bring their psychedelic and ritual sounds to Atonal for the first time. We are looking forward to this one as well as Samuel Kerridge at 4:45 and the man himself, Regis, at 6:15.
You also don't want to forget about Ohm and Tresor tonight. The battery room opens at 20:00 and will see a great live set from Sophia Loizou (23:00) which brings together remnants of hardcore and jungle. Later at 3:00, Ena goes b2b with Berlin favorite Felix K and DJ Sports will end things with a big set at 5:00. Tresor plays hosts to some legends as well with Sigha DJing at 00:00 and Hamburg master Helena Hauff going on at 5:00 for what will sure be a packed house.
Saturday, August 25th
The marathon continues starting at 20:00 on the main stage with a mesmerizing show from Prequel Tapes featuring performers nomorless and Valentin Tszin. UK rave is excavated and fused with sounds new and old for a cinematic journey through synthesized moods and heavy emotions. This will engage all senses and disciplines. At 23:00, Scottish composer Claude Speed takes the stage with visual artists Sasha Litvintseva + Beny Wagner. Expect hazy ambient drone and distorted memories of 90's rave. Closing out the room at 00:00 is renown project Actress. Darren Cunningham's moniker has become one of the most celebrated in electronic music and the live A/V will showcase his mythology, architecture and altered instrumentation for all to witness.
Back downstairs at 1:00, Stage Null features some of the best in wave and post-punk infused sounds with Minimal Wave boss Veronica Vasicka opening things up followed by a massive performance by Shifted/Broken English Club/IIlpo Väisänen at 3:30. Over at Ohm, some more great artists are featured with a much anticipated live set by Patricia (22:30) and what's sure to be an explosive b2b closing with Simo Cell and Lowjack (4:00). Tresor opens up the basement at 00:00 and we recommend catching Copenhagen's Emma "Solid" Blake and her destructive techno at 4:30 followed by the euphoric sound of Blue Hour at 7:00 which will no doubt extend beyond breakfast.
Sunday, August 26th
Congratulations, you made it to the final day. At times Sunday can feel a bit more downtempo as festival goers have been through a lot already but don't let this fool you. There are plenty of great acts still ahead and Ohm is packed with quality performances as well. The main stage sees festival favorite Group A with Dead Slow Ahead (22:00) and closing things out is LABOUR presents next time, die consciously (بیگانگی). This will be the debut of the collaborative project which seeks to contribute a space of nonconforming social practices and identities, and recasts the nature of work as a potentially transformative activity. This will surely be a powerful way to close out the Main Stage.
Just because it's closed upstairs does not mean the party is over. Stage Null has a really nice lineup of Skee Mask (00:45) and Objekt (2:45) and we are particularly excited about the closing party at Ohm with Russia's Machine Woman live (00:00) and Anastasia Kristensen going b2b with Sissell Wincent at 2:00.
Be sure to also roam around Kraftwerk and experience the incredible site specific art installations that the festival offers. We can't wait to see "Etiolation", the project of Berlin-based avant garde florist Mary Lennox and Laxlan Petras presents, "Fear not my knell, for the second is not last" among others.
Few other music and art events offer the same kind of experience as Atonal. By the end, you will surely begin dreaming about next year. For more information and full schedule visit: https://berlin-atonal.com/