Words & Pics by Captain Stavros
Thawing out in a cozy boozer around the corner from the station in Hackney Wick, we marinate whilst a delayed friend makes their way to us. They’re an hour late, but the time’s spent sipping on a half of Kernel with Elvira’s (Cassandra Peterson) autobiography in hand, Cruelly Yours, in hand (would recommend). Tonight, we’ll be getting a sneak peak of Atka’s first performance in London. No fear if you weren’t there, they’ll be back at it on November 28 at The Waiting Room in Stokey.
It’s been five days, we’re told mid-set, since the German-born, London-based artist released their debut EP, The Eye Against the Ashen Sky. Tonight, through a tangle of wires and kit, a deep drudging bass echoes off the 9294’s spacious warehouse ceilings and walls, reaching down on us like sonic skeletal fingers. The 30-minute delayed stage time dragged on pre-show but, after a rousing set opener, we felt like we’d been renewed afresh, much like we’d yanked out of a Lazarus’ pit.
“She sounds like an Irish Sinéad O'Connor”, our friend half whisper/screams into our ear. Atka’s eyes seem to nervously flick about the room fork-tongued like a snake gathering reconnaissance on the space, it came back balmy and steadily rising. The sieved philosophical lyrics burrowed with a contrasting elegance, while hard and brutish faux-bass clacking out from the keyboards clearing any obstacles in its path.
‘Lenny’, track three, soon came on and our friend bellowed, ‘this is the one he heard online’. Atka insights on Lenny, “This is a song about how one man’s obsession with finding meaning turns everything around him into a swamp of meaninglessness that also sucks in everyone around him. It’s witnessing empty repetition right in front of your eyes and the helplessness, all-limbs-dropping-to-the-floor exhaustion felt as a result, when caring for someone who is depressed. And ultimately, it’s about the absence of being perceived by that person and one’s drift into a ghost-like state. When no one is watching or sees me – do I even exist? ‘Lenny’ is about “reverse-paranoia” if you want it.”
‘Child of Rage’, the last song of the evening, is over, along with the set, far too soon. No encore filled with covers here (Joy Division nor Kraftwerk). After a succinct set, Atka takes an opportunity to introduce the band; Min (keys), Louie (percussion), and Archie (strings). Together, they are greater than the sum of their parts and have presented a compelling performance. Recording their first song at age 10, Atka pours a wealth of experience into a richly dense EP that plays as well live as it does on record.