- Helena Hauff's appeal is obvious. She comes from Hamburg's Golden Pudel, a 200-capacity punk venue repurposed as a dance club, where perfect mixing seems beside the point. (For a while, the place only had one turntable.) Hauff channels that kind of slapdash personality into her DJ sets, which mix up industrial, EBM, post-punk and, primarily, the West Coast Hague sound. The same energy pervades her own productions, acidic hardware workouts with an aversion to computers. It's a classic approach that hearkens back to the original Chicago machine jams, but Hauff makes it her own, channeling idiosyncratic tastes through tried-and-true Roland gear.
On Discreet Desires, Hauff's first proper full-length, her dynamic subtlety and deft songwriting place it a notch above the pack. Bearing out this point is the opener, "Tripartite Pact," which immediately establishes a decidedly sparse palette. Hauff's programming skirts around the edge of a full beat, teasing a hi-hat in and out of the mix or using rimshots instead of a snare.
The album is also full of pleasing, interstitial mood pieces. "Sworn To Secrecy Part 1" plods along at 90 BPM in its lo-fi John Carpenter gloom. Hauff forgoes drums altogether on the album's closing tracks. "Dreams In Colour," a sub-two minute breeze of dueling arpeggios, is unremarkable on its own. In context, however, it's a dramatic shift to a major key, sounding like a glimmer of hope. Similarly, "Silver Sand & Boxes Of Mould" offers the listener an olive branch. The beautiful song could double as a ballad off a Chris & Cosey album, or some post-punk ephemera Captured Tracks would repackage.
Some of the best moments on Discreet Desires occur when she's flexing these unexpected songwriting chops. "Spur" is perfect I-F style electro-funk, resting on a rough snare and anthemic, punky bassline. "Piece Of Pleasure" also leans on the keyed-up Italo signifiers favored by the Intergalactic FM crew, and is one of the few times Hauff lets loose with a synth solo, hinting at a deeper musicianship. Most of the time, though, she lets the machines do the heavy lifting. "Tryst"'s nervous system is an immediately recognizable Juno-60 arpeggio, which she modulates within an inch of its life over a Cybotron-style beat. A couple tracks end with just this pulsing Juno, the machine's control voltage providing the rhythmic base of the tracks. It's like she's showing off exactly how she makes this music, daring anyone to do better with the same 30-year-old machines.
01. Tripartite Pact
03. Sworn To Secrecy Part I
04. L'Homme Mort
05. Funereal Morality
06. Piece Of Pleasure
08. Sworn To Secrecy Part II
09. Silver Sand & Boxes Of Mould
10. Dreams In Colour