Album Reviews

Hell – Teufelswerk

(Gigolo) UK release date: 27 April 2009

A dance music release with a disc each devoted to ‘Night’ and ‘Day’ is nothing new, and even suggests complacency on the part of the artist that dare use it now.

Yet DJ Hell isn’t just an ordinary artist, and this isn’t an ordinary album, for its development phase looks to have been a lengthy one. And somehow the concept works, even though a listen to the entire double album at one sitting is too much.

Although based in Berlin, Hell appears to take plenty from Detroit, with parts of the Night section drawn out structurally and immaculately voiced, all recalling the work of Carl Craig if not a conscious imitation. This works incredibly well in the striking U Can Dance, where Bryan Ferry, modestly credited with ‘backing vocals’, turns a livewire piece of electronic production into a techno cocktail par excellence over the course of ten minutes.

While we’re on the subject of star guests, P Diddy also appears, his potential in faster music clear when raising the roof at Miami in 2003 with Let’s Get Ill. Yet this track is more indulgent, and by its end has become more about Diddy than Hell, detracting from the first class production with a closing rap that smacks of laziness and self importance.

Hellracer and The Disaster are much more like it, the rush of a passing car in the former ushering in a minimal track with a jumped up synth riff, while the latter is a brilliantly executed piece of techno, its main motif given out with a sheen of white noise. Wonderland, too, offers a punchy lower range as it sets out, recalling the influence of Craig once again.

When you realise the production team Hell has at his disposal, it’s hardly surprising the overall album is so accomplished, with Peter Kruder, Christian Prommer and Roberto De Gioia overseeing proceedings.

Yet while the ‘Night’ section has little flaws, ‘Day’ is a frustrating listen at times, despite the beauty of sound achieved once again in production. The music builds promisingly from Germania but only fitfully breaks out into a fully fledged house tempo, which ultimately proves frustrating as we dip in and out of faster sections too quickly.

The sound is generally warmer, mind, and the references to Krautrock subtle and not overdone when they do crop up. When the pace does get going there’s a real rush, as in the white noise at the end of the first part of The Angst, though sadly this is immediately quashed by some admittedly graceful strings in the second part, the emotional temperature lowered once again. To finish we wind down with a chrome-plated cover of Hawkwind‘s classic Silver Machine, the deadpan vocals courtesy of Billie Ray Martin.

This is a highly ambitious piece of work from Hell, then, that impresses in its quality of sound, and particularly in the way it grabs the listener throughout ‘Night”s longer tracks. If only the euphoria of the sun in ‘Day’ wasn’t so fleetingly glimpsed.

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Hell – Teufelswerk