Berlin Atonal amplifies its intensity over the weekend. There’s quite a variety of sonic styles to be found within the festival’s venues, which also includes a one-of-a-kind showcase. Check out the coverage of the first and second day if you missed it.
Kopp’s set creates an air reminiscent of the beginning of the fest, a pleasing and inviting atmosphere. The filter-sweep effects and flourishes give the sound a vaguely psychedelic flair. The set is about the minute changes in a sound, and coalesces around a ringing pad that remodels itself in obsessive detail.
The visuals are some of the most technical of the entire fest. White noise turns into a bulge. The screen seems to be emerging, like the scene with the gun coming out of the TV in Videodrome. The visuals are airy and ambient, inviting even. Helmed by Rainer Kohlberger, the most intriguing section occurs over a stop motion animation of an embossed mountain set against trees. The three color channels separate, giving the effect of looking through a second-rate projector.
The colors then become a river, which eventually turns into white noise as in the set’s beginning, again morphing into dust or an audio waveform being blown by an unseen wind. The sound burbles and coalesces in one steady constant drone, ever evolving and developing faint harmonics around the main resonant frequency. The percussion has been saved for this moment, and it bursts forth from the speakers in a final climactic exultation.
The harsh sounds weren’t far away. Orphx’s Rich Oddie and Christina Sealey threw down a punishing breakcore set where sounds mutated into an unholy cacophony of snare rushes and increasingly intense noise. Jumping up on the DJ tables to get people moving, their excitement to play for the crowd was apparent. The sound is omnipresent, the kind of thing one must submit themselves to. The lighting evokes the cathedral-like aspects of the space, and people around me compare and reminisce about their first time at Berghain, comparing it to a religious experience.
Mike Hentz had room to stretch out over a five-hour set where he played an eclectic mix of tunes, including straight jazzy deep cuts reminiscent of Hailu Mergia. With so much darkness around, Hentz offered a break that festival attendees appreciated, commenting that his set must have required some truly deep crate diving.
Much later, Headhunter and Pinch both held down the crowded club with dubstep sets rooted in truly dub beginnings. That doesn’t mean the sets were chill affairs. Pinch in particular showed himself to be a master of the genre by rattling everyone will throttling bass vibrations. Dubstep in particular requires proper sound systems, and the tight corners of Ohm acted to constrain the wobbling bass frequencies for maximum effect.
Jealous God Showcase
Atonal 2016 is unique in that it features the first and last showcase for the Jealous God label. Headed by Juan Mendez (aka Silent Servant), Karl O’Connor (aka Regis), and James Ruskin, the carefully curated label is featuring some of its recent artistic discoveries, as well as Silent Servant himself, by taking over the Null Stage all night.
Symbolic of the label’s end, the stage has been decorated to resemble a funeral, and if you’re lucky enough to be in the front row, you can smell the lilacs as you get blown away by December morphing twisted Gregorian-chant vocals into a sea of distortion. Get lost in 51717’s eerie drone ambiences or the doom drums of Champagne Mirrors, and of course the industrial sounds of Silent Servant to complete the night. Stay up late; there’s still tons more to hear.