The long-running German highlight is a crucial fixture of Berlin’s clubbing scene, with the jaw-dropping Kraftwerk building powering the spectacle.
Chosen for: Innovation.
A city that’s as synonymous with techno and pioneering electronic sounds as Berlin deserves a festival that underscores this hefty reputation. Atonal fits the bill, with a boundary-pushing ethos that reflects the city’s radical, free-thinking attitudes and penchant for dark, smoky aesthetics. First taking place between 1982 and 1990, before relaunching in its current form in 2013, Atonal presents an electrifying programme that connects the dots between exploratory sonics and visual art.
Held at Kraftwerk, a mammoth former power plant that acts as a kind of temple to Berlin nightlife, the annual, week-long festival is renowned for its curation of mind-blowing performances that work in sync with the building’s colossal industrial interior. There’s a willingness towards experimentation at the heart of Atonal’s programming that sets it apart from other electronic music festivals. Performances can be risky or unconventional, but that’s part of the appeal, especially in a city that values freedom of expression as much as Berlin does.
What’s equally impressive is the way Atonal keeps innovating, with satellite events and standalone concert series like Metabolic Rift, a guided exhibition tour through a series of curated audiovisual installations; or, there’s the three-day-long X100 event honouring the late avant-garde composer Iannis Xenakis and featuring the likes of Kali Malone, Valentina Magaletti and Pan Daijing. Atonal continues to evolve with the times, and much like the city it is based in, it’s always full of surprises.
Berlin Atonal is set to make its return to the Kraftwerk complex in 2023. Dates are yet to be announced.