Music Reviews
DJ Hell

DJ Hell


International Deejay Gigolo

Though he’s widely considered the figurehead of the electroclash movement by exposing the world to acts like Fischerspooner and Miss Kittin & The Hacker through his own International Deejay Gigolo imprint, DJ Hell has carved a notable career for himself well before and after said movement’s early 21st century heyday.

From his Berlin home base, the DJ/producer has released a steady output of remixes, EPs, and full-lengths that embody the spirit of Detroit techno but are infused with the dapper entrepreneur’s modern flourishes. Having moved past the electroclash groundswell, Hell follows up the synthetic delights of 2004’s NY Muscle with Teufelswerk, an ambitious double-disc outing that serves as an aural excursion into the ebbs and flows of clubbing.

Divided appropriately enough into Night and Day, Teufelswerk’s first half offers a lengthy eight tracks that rarely stray below the eight-minute mark. Here, Hell immediately dips into pulsating grooves on “U Can Dance,” which features the silky, dramatic vocal stylings of Roxy Music frontman and fellow musical sophisticate Bryan Ferry. The smooth disco strains eventually give way to more aggressive, Kraftwerk-inspired house on “Electronic Germany,” an unwavering homage to the contemporary Berlin sound that includes hyper arpeggiation and vocoders ala the Teutonic techno forefathers.

While Ferry seems a suitable muse for Hell’s nocturnal journey, the producer has also invited P. Diddy to the party to lend a profanity-laced diatribe about track edits on “The DJ.” The deep house collaboration isn’t so bizarre though when you realize the two have collaborated before on the 2003 single “Let’s Get Ill” and soon after on “Check This.” Fortunately for the listener, the Diddy cameo doesn’t detract from Hell’s mission, which continues with more subterranean Detroit-styled squall on “The Disaster,” and dark electro on “Bodyfarm2” and “Friday, Saturday, Sunday.”

But whereas Night lays the groundwork for revelry within the fog-filled, strobe-lit dancefloors of Neo-Berlin, Day provides a welcome picture of the after-hours comedown. Opening track “Germania” emerges from a sonic abyss and evolves into a Gothic processional that is filled with twinkling minor-chord keyboard melodies and an atmospheric backdrop that’s reminiscent of early Delirium soundscapes. While the lengthy dramatic moment soon segues into the lengthy guitar-led ambient number “The Angst & the Angst Pt. 2,” Hell is reluctant to let go of his beat-driven impulse. The artist quickly reverts to the industrial-tinged “I Prefer Women to Men Anyway” and dense, shuffling techno on “Hell’s Kitchen” before ending the opus with sounds of a storm on “Silver Machine.”

It’s a fitting, cathartic ending to what is essentially a taxing, yet ultimately breathtaking effort. Teufelswerk is not merely a compendium of Hell’s most career-defining turns; it is solid proof that not only has he survived trends, but by arming himself with a cadre of co-producers/peers like Anthony Rother here, he’s never had any need for them in the first place.

Gigolo Records:

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