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DJ Hell - Teufelswerk


It’s not often that producers in electronic music can make a dramatic statement and have the evidence to back it up without want of a better word, making an arse of themselves. The bold and grandiose are usually, with much solid evidence, shot down in flames. One mustn’t forget though that Helmut Geier has been arguably one of the most important people in dance music - as a selfstyled “anti DJ”, and foremost as the head of Gigolo, a label that has defied definition, and survived a critical onslaught from the more serious corners of the fraternity with the emergence of electroclash earlier this decade. Alongside Uwe Schmidt, Wolfgang Voight, Moritz Von Oswald and Thomas Fehlmann, he is without doubt one of the elder statesmen of dance music. An that’s not even bringing into consideration his influence on fashion and whatnot. I’ll leave the hipsters to fight it out over that one though.

“Teufelswerk” (Devil’s Work) is split into 2 parts, the 1st being labelled “Night” where Hell calls upon a small crack unit of producers including new Gigolo acolyte &ME and collaborators, not least P Diddy and Bryan Ferry. The 2nd, called “Day”, is a more emotive and pastoral effort between himself, Roberto di Goia, Christrian Prommer and Peter Kruder. Ferry kicks off the album in fine style, lending his inimitable crooning to a thundering “U Can Dance”. It’s the sort of visceral Gigolo track that has defined the label’s aesthetic over the years, having a delicious pop tinge, but there’s no doubt that’s it’s the sort of Hi-NRG Techno that we all come to expect. Anthony Rother, who has rather lost his way in recent years, helps out with the necessary vocoder work on “Electronic Germany”, before Mr Sean Coombs himself lends some sort of nonsensical rant about DJs playing short “radio” versions of songs on “The DJ feat. P Diddy”. It’s rather ridiculous, and one gets the feeling that he phoned in his effort making it up on the spot, but there’s something about it, not least the slightly incredulous stomping beat throughout, that makes one forget about the association. I’m not sure anyone will be playing it out though. “The Disaster” is prime mid-90’s cold-wave stadium techno, with a small sample of Phase 4 included, whilst “Bodyfarm 2” has Rother helping out again, this time making a more assured contribution to one of the album’s more dynamic tracks. The 303 comes to the fore with “Hellracer”, but the album’s finest moment is “Wonderland”, Rother again helping out with some delightful synth work that crosses the boundary into electro with ease. It’s prime Gigolo that contains a very subtle Detroit influence. Dutch acid legend Stefan Robbers contributes his unique melodic touch to the 1st part’s closer “Friday, Saturday, Sunday” but he can’t prevent it sounding a little clumsy.

It’s interesting then that the second part “Day” is something of a small revelation, being a much more sophisticated and textured journey through a range of emotions. Opener “Germania” is nothing short of a Tangerine Dream-influenced ode to Kosmische, but done with a lightness of touch that defies most who try to ape them nowadays. Acoustic guitar from Peter Kruder and subtle vocals weave in and out of “The Angst”, which I must admit at 13 minutes slightly outstays its welcome, but there’s some exceptional techno on offer with “I prefer Women to Men anyway” and the album’s closer, which covers Hawkwind’s Silver Machine, ends matters in the idiosyncratic fashion that I suspect Geier relishes.

There’s something peculiarly satisfying about epic double albums that have gaping flaws, and “Teufelswerk” is no different. Somehow the pedestrian electro/techno numbers seem to fit cohesively as a whole though when listened to in the context of this album, and Geier has summoned up a couple of decade’s worth of experience both with collaborators and an aesthetic with Gigolo to produce something approaching a richly satisfying summary of his work. For that alone, he deserves the accolades for this album, but don’t expect the glitter on this music to stay for long.

Toby Frith



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