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Atonal: Dissolving boundaries between space, art and sound

October 3, 2017 • By

It’s so loud that you can’t hear your thoughts. So big that you don’t see the confines of the empty powerplant. The flashlights bounce off the fractured walls. In front, some are dancing – moving as though it were dependent on life and death, whilst others are sitting, standing, listening and nodding. Besides the fact that the vast majority are in black, almost a brutal heavy goth fashion reminiscent of the punk and pop movements of the 80s and 90s, there exists a complex variety amongst the Atonal crowd.

Emilie Engbirk looks back at this year’s Atonal in a conversation with founder Dimitri Hegemann:

Atonal – both an experimental music festival, and a five-day techno marathon. This categorization may not necessarily be wrong, nevertheless it’s hard to label an event of such scale that has constantly reinvented and evolved perceptions of sound, visual art, history and the notions of space, elements that fuse together to extend the established boundaries of performance.

Fis and Renick Bell – Berlin Atonal 2017 © Camille Blake

It was some 35 years ago (1982) that Atonal first took place at SO36 in Kreuzberg, Berlin. Already in the first year the standard was set high with Einstürzenden Neubauten, Jeff Mills, Psychic TV and 808 State on the bill.

Dimitri Hegemann, its founder and a pioneer of Berlin’s techno scene – having brought Tresor to the forefront of the electronic forum in the 90s and early 00s – attended the festival each of the 5 days. You may have caught a glimpse of him in the middle of the night in Tresor’s ‘techno dungeon’. His primary objective to change the listening habits of participants – something that seems to have worked when observing the different behavioural patterns of the crowd. “Atonal takes place in an incredible space; even entering the power station is an experience in itself, you don’t expect the luxury of space before you, and the voyage of discovery that you are about to embark upon. The music program is designed to fit and work with the space. And the artists are forced to work with this space (shadows included) – it’s a work of art. All further enhanced by the opportunity for a serious dance at Ohm and Tresor.”

The Main Stage occupies the entire first level of the powerplant – by far the most impressive, overwhelming space, cultivating an all-round sensual experience. This year saw the installation of the ‘Control Center’ where hardware, in the form of analogue sound, was set up amidst the machines that once served the purpose of the plant, while interspersed with an array of night flowers and duvets!

Berlin Atonal 2017 © Camille Blake

“Thinking back to 1982, Berlin was the city of the Genius Dilettantes. Bands like Einstürzende Neubauten were developing sounds that encapsulated the spirit of West Berlin. Test Dept and Psychic TV followed. All analog. Me and my team of curators (Laurens von Oswald, Harry Glass, Paulo Reach) struggled to realize ATONAL 82, despite this direction being able to develop the Berlin underground in a most authentic fashion. It was a question of assembling the protagonists of a then independent scene. What particularly fascinated me was the idea of ​​bringing together almost all of the important formations of Berlin, on one stage. It was a counterbalance to the then-mainstream new wave pop influences. The beginning of a new condensed scene, partly the spirit of the punk movement, all the while industrial. And West Berlin provided the unusual setting. These artists developed their own style, their own music and expressions, in turn developed by other like-minded artists from all over the world (Hackney, Sheffield, New York to name but a few locations). So whilst in the first year, we presented mostly Berlin-rooted artists, Atonal soon grew beyond the borders of the city. Locations got bigger as the attendees grew in number. Atonal established itself – becoming an influencer in the musical landscape of that time and the resulting techno movements.” 

This year Atonal presented the likes of Moritz von Oswald, Demdike Stare, Regis/Main, Stingray, Apeiron Crew, Belief Defect, Puce Mary, Shed/ Pinch, Anastasia, Trevor Jackson and others.

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It’s a historic event in Berlin, across the 5-day programme you’ll find something that you like, and you’ll discover something new across the showcase of performances from established and up and coming artists.  The image of Atonal is one that is raw – with a focus to develop and enhance the listening experience, all the while pushing the limits for performance and thus perception.

“Atonal will always serve as a refreshment between the mainstream of daily life, bringing us together as a community (like all music). I see those images of men and women marching in North Korea, who would actually prefer to just dance no.” 

(Dimitri Hegemann)

Sunday – Berlin Atonal 2017 © Camille Blake

Snippets

May Day: Politics won’t divide us

April 28, 2017 • By

In 1910, Herr von Jaegow, the Berlin police president, attempted to prohibit demonstrations on workers’ May Day, and threatened to proceed against the demonstrants with arms if necessary. He was answered when hundreds of thousands of workers poured into the streets. Von Jaegow did not dare go through with his threat. But that which even the minions of the Kaiser did not dare to do, was left to be accomplished by the German social democracy. Shortly before May 1st of this year [1929], Von Jaegow’s successor Zoergiebel issued an order prohibiting public demonstrations or meetings of any group in Berlin on May Day. The order was aimed directly at the Communists, and the answer of the Communist Party was a call to the workers of Berlin to fill the streets on May Day.

Translated from The MilitantVol. II No. 11, 1 July 1929, p. 7.

May 1, 2012 Berlin. By Sean Gallup

Berlin May Day 2014 on RT

Presently, the origins of Berlin’s Revolutionary May Day are associated to some 30 years ago – the year of 1987 – when police apprehended a street festival in Kreuzberg, using batons and tear gas in response to an overturned vehicle and several construction cars being pushed out onto the street. Inhabitants and activists quickly mobilised to resist the police attacks. Barricades were set up, police cars set alight, an urban uprising that forced the police stealth out from the confines of the district. Whilst the Revolutionary May Day demonstrations between The Left, the “Autonomen” (autonomists) and the police have become somewhat of an annual tradition, in true Berlin fashion there’s also a party to be had…

1st of May 2013, Berlin. By Katja Avant-Har

“With the rhythmical formula you can convince anyone in the whole world of dancing, just dancing. It’s a universal language of music, an anti-Babylon, it doesn’t matter from which culture you come, which political background or opinion you have… We all belong together – this is what music is able to show – that there is a culture uniting us, that we can communicate with one another, love one another, dance together without having any problem.  All these people are dancing to the same songs.

(Ricardo Villalobos)

“Our movement is a bubble, a still accepted bubble that has no political meaning… that means that they leave us in our bubble. We should protect our bubble, be happy that we are able to make our parties and have that time where we are able to do what we want to do: dance and be together, this is something that we have to be very happy for. You have to work very hard to create that bubble, maintain that bubble and defend that bubble, to not let it become an instrument of political meaning.”

(Ricardo Villalobos)

In the name of peace, international understanding and socialism, let’s dance!
Club der Visionaere 2017

The Perlon heroes, billed each year as “Die Üblichen Verdächtigen” (The Usual Suspects) will grace the decks of the infamous Club der Visionaiere, bringing the sounds of minimal, electro, dub, techno and house for family, friends and dancers united by a passion that arguably makes up the heartbeat of Berlin. This year expect no less.

Whilst two causes – one of protest the other of rhythmical formulas – will and do characterise the capital, common themes of conviction, solidarity and revolution essentially underpin both, propelling the heartbeat of the city even further and deeper for the Summer months to come.

“The revolution is cool, everything else is Quark (cottage cheese).”

(Rosa Luxemburg)

Snippets

Binaural : Beyond Expectations

March 7, 2017 • By

Following the release of a number of EPs by the young talents of today – Harry McCanna, Etienne, Nicola Kazimir – respected by the electronic music sphere as we know it today, Undersound starts the year with something a little different. In January came the announcement of their fourth release, a Prisms LP by little known Binaural aka Jasper De Jong. A double EP split between techno and electro, the eight tracks exhibited are quite something, and something more considering that he had only officially released three EPs since 1998. But as electronic music has proven time and time again, it is not so much the quantity of labels a producer has under their belt that really counts.

“Just a little snippet of me taking my Perfourmer out on a walk on a rainy november 16th”

Jasper De Jong has been producing music since the 80s. It started when he saw his cousin playing Roland synths back in the 90s in the Netherlands: “pure magic” as recalled by him. Already a pianist, it wasn’t until “that magic Sunday” that a raw inspiration was cultivated inside of him. So he bought a synth and an Atari and continued to feed his passion through solo productions without affiliating himself to any one particular scene until he felt those all-important musical connections, surprisingly “through pre-internet bulletin boards”. One of which was with Random XS’s Sander Friedman, who introduced him to a scene that he barely knew about. “Legowelt Danny was there too, it was a special time. Everybody seemed to just do their stuff, in isolation more or less”.

Sander took Jasper under his wing after listening to a tape that he had made, not strictly in terms of production but music discovery too. “He showed me the real stuff – Detroit techno, Drexciya, Basic Channel”. Jasper collaborated with Random XS (Frank De Groodt – Sander Friedeman), notably on ‘Errant’, released many years later in 2015 as the Return EP on Dutch label Shipwrec. Sander also introduced Jasper to DJAX-UP-BEATS. Shortly after, in 1995, he released his first EP, Unison, on the legendary imprint. In the following years he went on to explore D&B and electro. His experimentations are very present in his productions, say his Switch EP released on UK electro/IDM label SCSI-AV in 2002.

Jasper has since remained under the radar. With a day job and a family, he retreats to the studio after putting his children to sleep – his passion for music clearly standing the test of time. Interestingly, he admits:

As much as I love listening to other people’s music, the tracks that are most dear to me are the ones where I can switch off influences and my own expectations. Like in the old days where a crappy D-10 and a sequencer were enough to let you wander off and follow intuition, pretty much goalless. I was very surprised and honoured that Undersound picked out some of those tracks that are very close to me.

Cover image by Keewah

Edited by Kaajal Shah

Snippets

The Rise of The Vinyl Market

March 1, 2017 • By

London. A city with a thriving electronic music scene.

England. The birthplace of music styles, record labels and thousands of obscure records spanning the spectrum of electronic music.

Yet, despite this history and substance, second-hand record stores in London that are as equipped as let’s say Berlin and even Paris, Brussels and Rome, are but a few. Do we owe this to the high rents, the “laissez-faire” approach or even the lack of interest in our small bubble of a scene.

A reaction to this apparent lack has manifested itself in the vinyl markets that have been popping up in our scene and over London as of late. For example, last September, Koncept Music hosted a second hand record fair headed by Niff, involving local DJs coming together to sell their second copies and/or records too valuable to give away but simply not suitable to play during a set. Some DJs wanted to sell to buy more, but perhaps they didn’t foresee spending most of their earnings almost immediately on other records at the market. What ensued was a reciprocal exchange, part of the magic in getting a group together to collaborate.

Second Hand Record Fair @ Koncept Music 25/09/16

Vinyl Market Place, Rome 2016

Libertine & Slow Life Open Air Vinyl Market 13/09/16

Coming up this Sunday it’s Cartulis’ turn, at The Brewhouse. As well as selling their own records and merchandise, they’ve involved other collectives from around Europe: the likes of HardWorkSoftDrink, Seekers, Sleepers, distributor EFD Tokyo and Doctor Vinyl who will be making it over here from Brussels. And of course, a market wouldn’t be a proper market without second-hand goodies. This is where the “Discogs” sellers come in, such as Cartulis residents Unai Trotti and Raphael Carrau, Junki Inoue, Isherwood, Voigtmann, Jacopo, Galvin, Lorenzo Stucchi and others. They won’t stop at records though, as there will be plenty of clothes with independent sellers and a stall by NDN, a clothing brand launched and dedicated to dancefloor moments.

So, as for the soundtrack, it’ll be provided by Miro Sundaymusiq, Isherwood and Davy, each playing non-dancefloor sets that will be broadcast and streamed live via KMAH Radio. And once the sun goes down, Cartulis resume their Sunday VA dance in the main arch of The Brewhouse. For this VA edition, there comes the invitation to a DJ born and bred in the UK, with an extensive yet rare record collection, most would say a masterpiece in itself. The perfect guest for this event, guess who?

 

Edited by Kaajal Shah

Snippets

Being Conxi Sane

February 9, 2017 • By

Albert Einstein once said “Creativity is intelligence having fun” – a life theme wonderfully underpinned in this comic drawn for us by the talented Conxi Sane [Ivvoki Studio].

We look forward to more of her art, characterised by an acute perception of the darkness that strays amidst the rhythm of our daily lives. 

 

 

Snippets

Merry Christmas: Re-issue of ‘The Other People’s Place “Lifestyles of The Laptop Caf锑

December 22, 2016 • By
It’s no secret that Warp fans have been wanting to get their hands on the vinyl issue of The Other People Place‘s infamous LP Lifestyles of The Laptop Café. A petition to re-issue the 2001 Warp Records classic was launched in 2015 following incredibly high prices on Discogs – at the time (June 2015) the highest price in the marketplace was a whopping €25,000. 
  

For the 1,167 supporters, the campaign was short of just 333 signatures to make a difference. But perhaps Warp did listen to “the people”… over a year later, the label has today announced that a re-issue of the double vinyl edition is available for pre-order on Bleep.com, hitting the stores as of February 10, 2017 (unfortunate news for the handful of secondhand sellers on Discogs…). 

Merry Christmas!
   
For old time’s sake, here’s a video of Nicolas Lutz playing “Let Me Be Me” back in 2 0 1 4 :
   

 
*Cover Image from Warp
Edited by Kaajal Shah
Snippets

fabric is safe for now, but is London’s night culture?

November 24, 2016 • By

Monday 21st November saw Islington Council, the Metropolitan Police and fabric come to an agreement to re-open the fabric nightclub. Hailing a bitter sweet victory for the London establishment dancers worldwide rejoice. 

The decision comes at a crucial time for the city of London that has seen the loss of 50% of its nightclubs since 2008. BIGGER THAN FABRIC – curated by Nathalie Wainwright – explores the demise of a once vibrant club culture, beyond that of a single club and asks the all-encompassing question of whether ‘it’s too late for London’?

Insights are brought from Irvine Welsh, Bill Brewster, Kate Simko, Sacha Lord-Marchionne, Debonair and a number of experts with specialities ranging from harm reduction to club promotion.

“It’s fantastic news that Fabric has its licence back but there’s an awful lot more work to be done to support London’s night time culture and the people who contribute to it”. 

[Matt Gooden – Who Wot Why]

“It’s fascinating to explore what’s really going on in London as well as meeting some of the people trying to keep their culture alive in a city that’s changing beyond all recognition”.

[Wayne Holloway – Director]

“Clubland contributes hugely to the culture and economy of London. It’s important that we look at what’s causing its demise, to find a way to protect its heritage and to see it thrive as part of London’s cultural landscape.”

[Nathalie Wainwright – Producer]

Video created by Matt Gooden, Sean Thompson and Ben Walker of Who Wot Why, directed by Wayne Holloway, edited by Spenser Ferszt at Marshall Street Editors, sound design by Wave and post-produced by Absolute.

Producer Nathalie Wainwright tragically lost her brother to an ecstasy overdose in 1997.

Snippets

My Mental Madness [CV001]

November 3, 2016 • By
The talented Saverio Celestri is back with a new EP My Mental Madness for the newly created music label CLUB VISION.
 

The acclaimed producer grew up in Treviso, moving to Berlin 4 years ago. His sound has been deeply influenced by his Berlin experience, with a style ranging between dark and emotional techno and electro. After some strong digital productions, he’s gone on to collaborate with Imprints and most recently Berlin label/party/collectif Slow Life – one of the pre-eminent labels attributed to pushing our scene forward – with EPs Vortex and Toxic.  

Another Berlin entity that has seen success is Libertine. Not so long ago Saverio joined Yoshi and Sbri on their journey to emerge a sound and concept across the city. Its ever-increasing presence in this subset of electronic music is demonstrated by the reach of its parties, now held across Europe; with the label side most recently attracting the production qualities of Etienne and Onur Ozer for its fourth release (also featuring a collaboration by Saverio and Yoshi).

It’s not unusual to see Saverio Celestri’s name at the top of the DJ charts on underground electronic music outlets Decks.de, Juno and the likes.

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Snippets

Lize: The Last Summer

September 29, 2016 • By

The Lize collectif celebrated some final Summer moments on the wooden decks of Club Der Visionaere last Saturday. Patrick Specke, Bruno Schmidt and Ettore joined Sebastian Rudolph and Patrick Poitz for a near to 24 hour marathon.

Here’s a snapshot of Ettore’s set, a first set in Berlin that won’t be forgotten in a hurry!

 

After solid releases by Isherwood, St. Joseph and Levat, Lize Records is on its way to releasing their fourth release very soon! Keep and eye out…