All the music you need to see at Berlin’s five-day techno marathon, from rising stars to blockbuster collaborations.
Now in its fifth year, Berlin Atonal has become one of the German capital’s best festivals, a required pilgrimage for anyone that loves techno and experimental sounds. Held in Kraftwerk, an imposing former power station, the festival uses its cavernous post-industrial surroundings to great effect, the building’s concrete pillars and high ceilings amplifying everything to monolithic scale.
Atonal strikes the perfect balance between live performance and DJ sets, easing you in with ambient and drone acts in the early evening before moving into techno and other club sounds at the legendary Tresor and OHM venues in the small hours. Its five days can fast become an endurance test even for those used to spending all weekend in Berghain.
This year’s lineup is another embarassment of riches: Shackleton, Roly Porter, the Radiophonic Workshop, Demdike Stare, Fis, Roll The Dice, DJ Stingray, Emptyset, Carla dal Forno, Apeiron Crew and Optimo are just a few of the acts playing at the event, which takes place across August 16-20. For those lucky enough to have a ticket, FACT has picked out seven unmissable acts, from rising stars to big names in one-off collaborations.
Wednesday 16, OHM
Atonal is generally perceived as a festival that specializes in techno and all of its experimental cousins, but it also likes to throw a few curveballs. This year, it’s a live show from Jamaican dancehall unit Equiknoxx, who will be appearing as part of Demdike Stare’s DDS showcase. Expect a high-energy show that will bring the party like nobody else over the weekend.
Friday 18, Main Stage
One-off collaborations are a regular fixture at most experimental festivals, but Atonal does it better than any other. A case in point is this year’s team up between Birmingham techno icon Regis and Main, the solo acousmatic project of former Loop guitarist Robert Hampson. According to Atonal, their show will be a must-see clash of noisy drone and industrial techno.
Friday 18, Tresor
Given the honor of kicking off Friday night’s lineup in Tresor is Anastasia Kristensen, a Copenhagen-based DJ who’s been gaining a fearsome reputation for techno sets that cover everything from UK bleep to jungle via Detroit ghettotech and electro. Her anything-goes style is guaranteed to provide one of the year’s most grin-inducing sets, and should give Tresor’s booming system a thorough workout.
Powell & Wolfgang Tillmans
Saturday 19, Main Stage
Powell is no stranger to collaboration: he’s worked with Warp trance aficionado Lorenzo Senni, Russell Haswell and HTRK’S Jonnine Standish in recent years, but it’s anybody’s guess what his team-up with Wolfgang Tillmans will sound like. One of the photographer’s techno tracks has already bookended a Frank Ocean album, so it’s probably fair to expect something aimed firmly at the dancefloor.
Friday 18 and Saturday 19, Globus and Stage Null
Inga Mauer’s heady blend of industrial, EBM, new wave and techno made her one of FACT’s techno artists to watch for 2017, and there’s no excuse not to catch the Radio Cómeme regular at Atonal as she performs twice across the weekend: a DJ set on Friday in Globus and her debut live set on Saturday at Stage Null.
Belong play October Langauge
Sunday 20, Main Stage
One of 2016’s Atonal highlights was the live debut of Second Woman, the dub techno and IDM-influenced project of Telefon Tel Aviv’s Josh Eustis and Belong’s Turk Dietrich. This year, Dietrich returns with bandmate Michael Jones to perform their 2006 album October Language, a underrated classic of modern shoegaze. If you need something to soothe your ears after a heavy weekend, this will be the ideal tonic.
Pan Daijing presents Fist Piece
Sunday 20, Main Stage
Pan Daijing’s Lack, released on PAN last month, is one of the year’s most striking debuts, a collage of gentle synthetic tones, ASMR vocals and clattering industrial sonics that refuses to sink into a complacent rhythm. Fist Piece is a world premiere featuring all-new music from the Chinese artist, but a similar mix of uneasy ambient and dense bass sounds is probably on the cards.
Berlin Atonal takes place from August 16-20. Find more information and tickets at the festival website.