Review: Atonal 2017

Last Friday my friend and I went to Atonal, an annual tradition. We saw about seven acts there, but the first one cast a long shadow over the rest of the acts.

A duo called Belief Defect was just starting when we walked into that cavern of sound. The soaring ceilings of Kraftwerk and the muted air had left some unsettling vestiges of a cathedral behind, but with the aid of intense visuals, they transformed it into more of a pagan temple.

Flickering red water and interference patterns blended with the ambient smoke. Rorschach faces shifted in the wind. Then gradually cleared and the sun rose, shining light on a surrealist projection show unlike anything I'd ever seen.  It dredged up the trippy weirdness of Hieronymous Bosch on the dance floor: chimeras of 'sin' cavorting across three layers of translucent screens.

They lost all their dire pretensions as they moved; became playful, jigging in and out of the laser-spotted clouds of smoke. Rotary dial spotlights sent your mind spinning off in so many directions: mystical, hallucinogenic, sexual, psychological. Spokes of thought closing in on the tangled figures on the dance floor and swirling them round till the garden collapsed into a mosh pit. A montage of riot scenes were briefly suspended Bosch's weird beauties in mid-roll.  It was a bit like stumbling into one of those mystery cults of yore.

Near the end of the set, a massive hummingbird swooped in and cleared the screen, oversized and sinister. The Aztek god of war was a hummingbird, but that synchronicity was probably injected by my own mind. I suspect that this (injecting synchronicities) is the whole point of the show.

This is what I go to Atonal for, dreamspaces like this.  Those dreams came home with me: animated deviants freaking blissfully in the garden of my subconscious. Unaware of epitomizing anything but themselves... not a Christian cautionary tale at all, but existence embraced at every level, groping deeper instead of higher but still moving beyond the naked eye.

How many clubbers get such a lasting impression from whatever half-formed images surround them on a pitch black dance floor, I wonder?

Dimitri Hegemann's ethos is still in plenty of evidence at Atonal: "Make obscurity work for you, and don't be afraid to f*ck up" (that's my take on it, anyway). Atonal it unafraid to make mistakes, living up to the epithet 'experimental' in moments like these. It's a shame that experimental is the only epithet that still embraces the challenge of testing our limits, these days.

More samples from Belief Defect's album Decadent Yet Depraved can be found here

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Berlin, Germany
...is NOT a fashion blogger! I write about underground music, activism, social media rights. Other publications that I have written for: OpenDemocracy, Urban Challenger, Siegesaeule, Alternative Berlin and Sensanostra.