CLASSIC REVIEW: ATARI TEENAGE RIOT- Delete Yourself
Atari Teenage Riot’s 1995 Masterpiece “Delete Yourself” sounds as if a punk modified with a synthetic heart and iron lungs was pumped to the seams with amphetamine. It’s political, it’s blunt, there’s no camp in its rawness. In a decade which saw punk reinvented as a handsome nihilism, “Delete Yourself” returned the genre to its roots in political panic and aggression. Every song rotates through a handful of ingredients: thrash guitar, screamed one-liners, maybe a movie samples, and a simple techno drum sample. But it was through this simplicity that ATR captured the essentials of punk’s vigor without a hint of nostalgia (or punk for punk’s sake). There is no close-reading with “Delete Yourself”. It is a pure, volatile reaction.
ATR, a trio consisting of Alec Empire, MC Carl Crack and Hanin Elias, combined elements of hardcore punk, thrash metal and breakbeat with, often extreme, anti-fascist lyrics. The result was Digital Hardcore; a far-left subculture pioneered by ATR which quickly spread in reaction against rising neo-nazi subcultures in Berlin’s electronic scenes. The genre’s namesake is derived from Digital Hardcore Recordings, a label set up by Empire which signed similar acts such as EC8OR, Sonic Subjunkies and Christoph de Babalon. For eight years, ATR reigned supreme in the Digital Hardcore scene before the subculture’s eventual decline at the turn of the millennium. In 2000, Crack was found in his apartment, dead at age 30 from a drug overdose. With that, Atari Teenage Riot disbanded: Empire continues to release experimental electronic compositions and Elias has established a career as a solo artist and created her own label: Fatal Recordings.
When first dissecting Delete Yourself, one should familiarize themselves with ATR’s first single, which happens to also appear on the 1995 LP. “Hetzjagd auf Nazis!” (“Hunt the Nazis!”) can be examined as a microcosm of ATR, exemplifying their urgent simplicity and unadulterated fury. An overdriven three note synth line layered over a breakbeat with Empire screaming “go” over and over for five minutes, “Hetzjagd auf Nazis” descends further and further into ambient obscurity as it progresses. Undeterminable echoed noises fill the space surrounding the mid-heavy synth line which, along with the repeating beat, grounds the track while its peripheral components drift further into madness. “Speed” begins with a speed metal guitar sample which stands solitary for a mere moment before being swept up by the beat. From here on it’s only a breakneck barrel towards the finish, Empire sputtering out unintelligible lines like News, Drug abuse to the future and the hypocrites cry: Who dies next? while Elias bellows out the song’s half-melody hook. There’s no room for breath, no room for contemplation; there is only an immediacy of terror which ATR thrashes again in futility. Even slower cuts like “Sex” embrace a gritty tinge of cyberpunk, as Elias delivers spoken word over a wet-reverbed breakbeat coupled with droning ambience. As if the band were lying face up underwater, occasionally able to grasp a breath before being flooded back down, “Sex” embodies Delete Yourself’s thesis of titanic cyberpunk anxiety. Atari Teenage Riot knows it’s too late; the powers which will overcome all of us are too large to stop. And Delete Yourself is trying to, even if just for a second, outrun our doom.
Delete Yourself does not exist to meticulously explore art as enrichment. Its lyrics are a simple, grotesque indictment of fascism, technology, and the institutions we have created which now rule us. It finds relevance today among those who feel alienated and exploited by every facet of their existence through its direct plea for individual uprising. It is a rebellion in its purest form.