To wrap up the 10-day experimental music week, Maerz Musik partnered with the Atonal curatorial team, their flawless thermal power station Kraftwerk and Germany’s Federal Cultural Foundation; to bring a time skewed 30 hour experience entitled the Long Now- in perfect resonance with their 2015 Festival of Time theme.
Taking place at the most grandiose of former factories, the Kreuzberg Kraftwerk venue set a tone of elegance, yet remained intimidating and surreal, as an apocalyptic cathedral of Berlin’s favourite flavour of concrete and steel. Subtleties of blue and rouge hue traced the sky long walls- embracing ambient, classical, and experimental sounds of the 30 hour play programme; with works by Morton Feldman, Phill Niblock, Burkhard von Harder, Mix Mup & Kassem Mosse, FM Einheit (formerly a percussionist for the post-industrial Einstürzende Neubauten), Mika Vainio, Actress, and more.
Saturday night began at 6pm with the Minguet Quartett performing Morton Feldman's 'String Quartet No. 2' lasting five hours, as the thinking crowd sat still to take in the early submersion of subtle strings and resonant instruments. The overnight cots served as chairs, set up in anticipation of the later dreamer long haul.
By midnight the experimental minimalist Phill Niblock began his overnight career journey, reinventing 20 individual music pieces from the 70s with acoustic accompaniment, 16mm projections, digital tinkering, and live musicians casually arriving for their slots within the seven-hour flow. By the time I returned for the sunrise symphonies at 6am, Kraftwerk was glossed over with a hazy glow of sleep; Niblock’s subtle drones seemed perfectly inline with the slow rise of the overcast. And now a surreal blend of chin-rubbing thinkers, cuddled up couples, and those creeping in from Tresor - filling the cots, roaming the walls, occasionally caped in the space age - golden emergency blankets- provided by the organisers for warmth. I climbed into a cot, somewhere in the Long Now, far from the real now, continuing to listen, lucidly dreaming for the next two Niblock hours.
In a side chamber of the lower floor, a 16-hour projection of the single-shot documentary ‘Narbe Deutschland’ (Scar Germany) by Burkhard von Harder gave life to a sombre room, as the video work traced an aerial view of the complete length of the former Iron Curtain. Occasionally live performers would appear at random supplementing the soundscape with voice, cello, horn, or trombone. A meditation, a softening history for those wandering in.
The second floor control room, immaculately preserved with its dials and switches and pastel green, the coldest of all performance areas, brought visions of a post Soviet survival, while broadcasting the '9 Beet Stretch’, a recording of Ludwig van Beethoven's ninth symphony stretched to 24 hours, by Leif Inge. I lingered watching those still awake fumble with the switches, or snoozing on the orange cots, to the long now ninth.
Though the sunrise never came indoors, the hint came when Kassem Mosse and Mix Mup flipped to the main stage at 9am on Sunday for their improvisational collage project ‘Chilling the Do’. Though hardly a disturbance, the music slightly picked up-tempo with their setup of modular synths and mixers, adding wobble to Niblock’s earlier voice.
I decided to pop out for a lunch break, though that ultimately led to a Sunday nap. I returned timely enough to catch the 9:30pm Mika Vainio live performance. (During this time Thomas Köner, FM Einheit and several others had kept the audience informed.) By now the crowd is fuller than I’ve witnessed in the venue over the former 12 hours. Less sleeping people. More whispering friends draped in black, watching Vainio tinker on stage. There’s practically nowhere to sit. I guess Berlin is a nighttime crowd.
Vainio continues to build a soundscape of tones, in his usual form; computerless and analogue. Pings echo in a long sea of continuity. He winds down, many cheer, then many exit.
Actress plays for two hours, and steals the show in some regard; maybe it’s just the waking of the blood. The syncopated rhythmic techno is challenging and diverse, people are dancing now, and I take home the fact that I need to revisit his last Ghettoville album. He breaks in with a David Bowie sample at some point, the crowd will never leave I gather. He should never stop playing. I imagine the Sunday night crowd at the similarly architectural Berghain club- but with a messy survival ethic. I’m pleased to have witnessed this. Atonal continues to represent the cutting in electronica without pushing a demoralising party agenda. I sneak out during the last cheer, before the afterparty at Ohm begins.
It’s Sunday night. And it’s long now, over.