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Berlin Atonal returns this summer for the fifth iteration of its modern era – which started in 2013 – with a five-day event running from Wednesday 16th to Sunday 20th August on its striking permanent industrial location at Kraftwerk Berlin. Over a hundred musicians, sound and visual artists, performers and DJs fill the performance program, bringing a total number of fifty projects, twenty-three of which are world premiered for the occasion.

Berlin, known for its magnetism that attracts all kinds of creatives and its post-industrial heritage, is the perfect place to celebrate festivals in which more and more experimental music and avant-garde audio-visuals intersect with the mainstream. This is where Berlin Atonal comes in: a festival revived for its fifth consecutive year and by now firmly established on the calendar. As a proof of it, the festival passes are sold out.

Across five different rooms, Atonal will showcase brand new commissions, collaborations, one-off performances, audio-visual — from now on referred as AV — installations and DJ sets. The iconic concrete cathedral-like Main Stage in the massive first floor hosts most of the premieres from 8 pm, while the ground floor is the location for the five-day installations exhibition with its Stage Null taking in the first shows plus screenings —starting at 6.30 pm— to continue its activity after the Main Stage live performances are finished. Most of the DJ sets are programmed for the mini club Ohm that runs in parallel with Main and Null stages. The after hours offer will happen at Globus and Tresor, starting at midnight and running until sunrise.

On the opening night on Wednesday, the festival will introduce an eight-channel spatial acousmatic piece composed by Stockhausen called Oktophonie as part of his monumental opera cycle Licht. Stockhausen stated that the electronic sounds (meant to represent the chaotic sound field of modern warfare) exist in three-dimensional space, with the audience listening inside a “cube of sound”. The festival recreates Stockhausen's octophonic set-up on the Main Stage by his long-time collaborator and director of his Foundation for Music, Kathinka Pasveer.


After Pasveer, Rashad Becker + Ena’s combine their extraordinary skills to work over eight channels as well (octophonic system mentioned above). Also working on Stockhausen’s system will be Pyur, who will present her new work Oratorio for the Underground.

The last show of the opening night at Main Stage will introduce five original members of the legendary BBC Radiophonic Workshop. Originally founded in 1958 it became the home for a group of experimental composers, sound engineers and musical innovators. Now, more than twenty years after the Workshop was decommissioned, the reformed group is presenting its new music.

But before all this happens, the first live performer of the current edition, Reinhold Friedl, will be presenting two new commissions at Stage Null for prepared piano from Romanian composers Iancu Dumitrescu and Ana-Maria Avram.


On Thursday, at Stage Null too, Argentine-born artist, instrument builder and clarinetist Lucio Capace will guide the concert dedicated to the legacy of his friend and collaborator Mika Vainio, who died earlier this year. Capace has brought together a trio of instrumentalists to pay tribute to him.

In the Main Stage, producer Abul Mogard will prepare his first-ever live show. Joining him is the new AV show from Demdike Stare with visuals from Michael England. The Manchester duo, unpredictably extracts the best from 1990s jungle, drum and bass, industrial and ambient techno. Also on Thursday night, it is the premiere of Damian Dubrovnik’s AV show. The Danish duo is known for incorporating elements of performance art and body acoustics to their corporeal sound.

After, and back to ground level, Mick Harris presents his project Fret, preceded by Spanish sound artist and producer Jasss and followed by Turkish-born Nene Hatun’s show Fountain of Fire. The Spanish will offer electro-acoustic experimentations sharpened after years of field recording and sound tracking for film.

On the weekend, the screenings at Stage Null will start on Friday, although they will last until Sunday. The program includes curated short films from old and new directors, animators and experimentalists like Larry Cuba, Julian Antonisz, Robert Breer, Deborah Stratman, Olivia Bock and Rebecca Mendez.


On Friday, at Main Stage, the world premiere of the anonymous new project Belief Defect will be presented. Industrial and noise musician Puce Mary (aka Frederikke Hoffmeier) will also premier a new live performance entitled A Feast Before the Drought. A new commission with unpredictable result brings together Main (aka Robert Hampson) and Regis. Ending the night at the Main Stage, Atonal will present another astonishing collaboration between Roly Porter and Paul Jebanasam, uniting the creative and technical capacities of two of the most powerful contemporary music composers in a project based on ritual system music.

And not to miss, the after hours DJ set of Richard Fearless.

Saturday ahead, at Main Stage, more collaborations will be presented, like the one that links live-coding mastermind Renick Bell and expert sound designer Fis in search of the next level sonic happenings. Behind the Glass is the ambitious new project born from overlapping the creative forces of Shackleton and his complex and occasionally atonal sound palette, Anika and her deadpan vocals, the visual sets of Pedro Maia and his constructive and reconstructive filmic talents, and legendary Berlin artist Strawalde. Equally challenging is the new live performance by Swedish duo Roll The Dice – Peder Mannerfelt and Malcolm Pardon –; jazz-infused electronic music.

Another very expected premiere show is the one by regular and electronic music enfant terrible Powell, who will be performing on stage with Turner prize-winning artist Wolfgang Tillmans. The last day of the festival, Sunday at Main Stage, Pact Infernal will bring their mutated tribal patterns during the night. Chinese performance artist and composer Pan Daijing will debut her work Fist Piece, focusing on voice and the relationship between bodies. The five-day event will culminate in Emptyset concluding at Main Stage. James Ginzburg and Paul Purgas, Emptyset’s founders, are focused on the material properties of sound and its relation with architecture. For Atonal, they have adapted their show to the industrial greatness of the location, Kraftwerk’s building.

Additionally, in the closing day, pieces of Nordic Flora Series curated by Jonas Rönnberg aka Varg will come together over three hours on Stage Null with a diverse catalogue of performers including Anna Melina, OliXL, Swan Meat, Chloe Wise or Ecco2k.

Added to all the previous, the Atonal commissioned installation program, in permanent exhibition during the festival duration, includes Berlin collective Feld, John Gerrard, David Spriggs, Dutch initiative Macular, Chinese filmmaker Zhao Liang, UK duo Semiconductor, Materiel Matano, Mischa Daams and Lukas Marxt.
Atonal Berlin will take place from Wednesday 16th to Sunday 20th August at Kraftwerk Berlin, Köpenicker Str. 70, Berlin. For tickets and further information click here.

Words
María Muñoz
Photos
Courtesy of Atonal

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