Monday, March 21, 2016
Hell - Teufelswerk (Original TC Review)
An unforgivable, glaring omission in this review: I left out all the co-producers! No wonder those two tracks sound like throwback electro, it's Anthony Rother behind the sound deck with Hell. Of course CD2 has such a consistent vibe throughout, Peter Kruder (of he & Dorfmeister fame) lent his craft to the project as well. And whoa, Mijk van Dijk had a hand in the tech-haus tracks? I'd never have known without looking at the liner notes, these tunes some distance from the techno he made his name on in the '90s. Then again, if Hell could evolve, why not Mijk?
It's almost unfathomable that Teufelswerk remains ol' Helmut's last LP. Not that he was ever a prolific producer before, but seven years is quite the gap, with no sign it'll stop increasing, a smattering of singles all to his name in recent times. There were a couple remix albums released for this one, yet those were roughly four years after the fact. At this rate, we might see a 'cover' LP anytime now!)
IN BRIEF: Back in Hell.
I doubt DJ Hell (Helmut Geier to his elders) ever intended for his label - International Deejay Gigolo - to become the tastemaker of all things electroclash. Yet by releasing one classic record after the other, it trapped him in that genre, such that it was all folks expected of him, even though his musical career had spanned far more than sleazy electro. Still, perhaps it was a blessing disguised as a curse in the long run. As electroclash faded from clubbing tastes, so too did the impossible expectations on Mr. Geier; however, his prior success helped keep some degree of interest in his career. After all, he managed to burn a fresh trail into clubland before, and folks are always eager to see if someone can twice strike gold in this fickle business.
Well, Hell ain’t havin’ that. Having already carved out his place in the Electronic Music Hall-Of-Fame, he’s not terribly interested in being a trail-blazer again. Instead, Mr. Geier appears quite content in simply make dance music for the contemporary crowds with his own spin on the template. Yes, this means tech-haus music …er, as per his current definition of it. And since his former high-status in the scene has afforded him plenty of good-will, Hell decided to also get in touch with his indulgent side along the way.
The result of which is this here double-CD album: Teufelswerk. The Night half is primarily the tech-house trip, though with ample nods to electro-proper, New York clubbing, and robo-German fetishism sprinkled about. Day, on the hand, is a downtempo, experimental, ambient, etc. etc. trip through Hell’s muse. For now, let’s look at the Night disc.
Having not totally abandoned the electroclash, Hell brought in Roxy Music man Bryan Ferry for a little vocalizing on opener U Can Dance; however, this is mostly a solid tech-house groover that gets the album started in fine fashion. Right from the onset, you can tell there is more thought and consideration into what constitutes a good house track, as Hell doesn’t get bogged down in ‘minimal’ wankery, simply laying out his rhythms and letting the hooks weave about.
From there, it’s one solid tech-house cut after another. The robots take over in Electronic Germany and Bodyfarm² with sinister electro-tones and eerie atmospherics. There’s nods to the minimalistic takes on tech-house in Friday, Saturday, Sunday and The Disaster, which are fine for what they are, though not quite as thrilling as some of the other tracks here. Hellracer gets in touch with acid, and Wonderland dabbles in some Latin-tinged melodies.
Then, of course, is The DJ. It features Sean ‘P. Puff. Diddy-Daddy’ Combs blathering on about how DJs need to play full twenty-minute versions of house tracks, a not entirely daft suggestion. The backing track Hell provides for the monologue dips into the best vibes a sweaty New York club often suggests (whether it’s still true or not being irrelevant). This track has caused a bit of controversy for no other reason than it’s P.Diddy cussing on the monologue, but who really cares? I’m sure if the naysayers didn’t know it was Mr. Combs doing the talking, they’d enjoy it just as much as any ‘monologue-house’ tune.
If you’re going to ding Hell for anything on this disc, it can be for the fact that, ultimately, we’re not hearing anything remarkably fresh here. Not that this should come as a surprise – Hell wasn’t known as much of an innovator back in the 90s when he was still making house and techno, and now isn’t much different. Night is a competently made CD of tech-house that you’ll enjoy from start to finish, provided you fancy tech-house at all to begin with.
For the more adventurous out there, Day will definitely please. Right off, Hell channels the spirit of 70s synth composers for Germania, giving us a true ambient sonic delight with spritely melodies and trancey backing arpeggios. After that, it’s thirteen minutes of Angst, which moves from a chilled jazzy build to a second half consisting of noisy, abrasive glitches – mmm, more of the former, please.
There are a few sonic doodles and experiments scattered about the rest of Day but only three fully-formed tracks left; and even then, I Prefer Women To Men Anyway and Hell’s Kitchen are mostly about experimental soundscapes anyway. Nay, it’s on final track Silver Machine that we get a proper song again, with Hell doing one of those ‘indie-tronica’ ditties along with one Marsmobil on vocals. It’s a pleasant enough way to close out this often musically-wayward disc.
Across two CDs, Teufelswerk is hardly dull and certainly worth an investment. The only thing to be wary of is we are hearing a DJ Hell that is quite comfortable with his status in clubland, resulting in an album that prefers satisfying a personal muse rather than a general audience. The other thing too is, as a songwriter, Mr. Geier isn’t quite as strong as some of the more notable names in this field (Garnier, Craig, etc.) so those who fancy artistic indulgences might not be as impressed. Therefore, it may be wise to take Teufelswerk with a grain of salt.
Written by Sykonee for TranceCritic.com, 2009. © All rights reserved.
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