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ATM is the Philadelphia collective breaking club music boundaries

This gang sandpaper across preconceptions of what’s acceptable to play in the club

  • Words: DeForrest Brown | Portrait: E. Jane | Live shots: Wilmer Wilson IV
  • 26 May 2016

Deep in the city of brotherly love resides a collective diametrically opposed to dance music’s homogenous dude-bro culture. Based out of West Philadelphia, ATM agitates for an alternative: its members, under various guises, rub sandpaper across preconceptions of what’s acceptable to play in the club and their parties, which happen monthly, are places where they and their congregation can perform and dance whichever way they want.

Right now, the squad is comprised of: Dj Haram, also known as Abdul Kadir; performance and sound artist Marcelline Mandeng; E. Jane, who steps out as Mhysa as well as one half of SCRAAATCH, and lawd knows, formerly known as plus_c and the other half of SCRAAATCH. They all explore what happens when pop, noise and club music collides, their individual output and the assorted soundtrack to their gatherings an ever-shifting collage of feel-good bangers and black holes full of distortion.

IRL actions in Philadelphia happen frequently and take place wherever’s suitable to set up a soundsystem and an assortment of laptops and controllers (keep informed by diving into the #ATMdata trail). The ATM party is haven and practice ground; a chance for the collective to group together away from their respective burgeoning arts and music careers.

At the end of March, there’s an ATM at an Eri-Ethiopian restaurant on Baltimore Avenue. The venue is a 20-minute cab ride from Philly’s downtown, which feels copacetic and consists of public spaces, luxury buildings and a number of colleges. The general metropolitan area is progressive and, at times, arousingly futuristic. But this sheen dissolves quickly the further you move away from the city center and this evening’s party is even further still.

By day, Dahlak Paradise serves traditional dishes like doro wat and fit-fit and by night, its 2am license gives room for karaoke and jam sessions. For music, it’s a modest, make-shift place – tables and chairs are cleared away from one corner of the restaurant in order to host events – though one that’s warm and intimate. There’s no designated dancefloor; you dance where you stand. And at ATM, everyone dances.

 
 
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