- You've probably noticed that a lot of the 2001/2002 electroclash alumni are releasing albums these days, from Miss Kittin & The Hacker, Crossover and David Carretta to Adriano Canzian, Peaches, Fischerspooner and Tiga. Coincidentally, most of the aforementioned recording artists had their first taste of (over) exposure with the help of International Deejay Gigolo Records and its head honcho DJ Hell. It isn't surprising, then, that the Berlin-based tycoon is looking for his share of the public spotlight after a long period of DJing meanderings and forgettable Gigolo releases. If his previous studio album, 2003's NY Muscle, was his bleak answer to the electroclash craze (and an oblique homage to post-9/11 New York City), and if his 2005 compilation was aimed at reevaluating his past, Teufelswerk, Hell's new 2-CD studio long player, is the type of towering, once-in-a-career work that sums up everything that was ever relevant about the DJ himself, his back-in-business label and his compelling array of dedicated collaborators.
The first, so-called "proper techno" half of the album is co-produced by Mijk Van Dijk, Anthony Rother, Stefan Robbers (AKA Terrace) and Peter Kruder, while the second, so-called Kosmische Musik portion was almost entirely recorded as a collective, collaborative effort between Kruder, Christian Prommer of Trüby Trio, Roberto Di Gioia and Hell himself. Therefore, the finished result ends up as a veritable who's who of '90s-centric Teutonic electronica that is totally oblivious to anything that has been happening in Berlin since, well, electroclash. You won't feel the influences of producers and tastemakers from fellow labels such as BPitch Control, Get Physical or Ostgut Ton on here, nor will hear any post-minimal, neo-deep house traces à la Innervisions or Connaisseur.
The album opens up with "U Can Dance," Hell's much-touted collaboration with glam rock's own dandy extraordinaire Bryan Ferry, and "Electronic Germany," probably the most self-explanatory track ever recorded this side of "Boing Boum Tschak." The former is straightforward yet intricately folded techno often associated with Carl Craig on which Ferry's singing feels smoothly rich and self-possessed, while the latter is pure old-school electro in the vein of Kraftwerk and Dopplereffekt. In both cases, you can see that Hell clearly wants to revisit his early Detroit influences and his Disko B days, but refuses to make any concessions to the restrained Ableton Live trends that have defined most of electronic Germany in the noughties (something that is also discernible on "Bodyfarm 2," which has Anthony Rother's tenacious stamp all over it).
Then, with "The DJ," you get what will probably be the album's most controversial track. Even with 2003's "Let's Get Ill," the pairing of Hell with P. Diddy still seems surprising. Sure, you'd see Diddy hooking up with more commercial DJs, and it would make total sense for him to record some stuff with people like, let's say, Steve Angello or Sharam; yet this dense deep house cut, co-produced by fellow Gigolo &Me, is a sterling backdrop to Diddy's vaguely offensive rant about the obsolescence of dance tracks' radio edits that makes you wish he'd one day release the dance album he always threatened to.
Following this hour of purer and more direct material, CD2—presented as the sunnier, luminous portion of the album—is slightly more exotic, but it has nothing of the tongue-in-cheek sass of the Barry Manilow-sampling "Copa" (probably Hell's lowest point). Instead, you get intricate guitar motifs alongside Moog-enriched ornaments on "Germania" and "The Angst (Pt. 1 and 2)," the album's pièce de résistance. "I Prefer Women to Men Anyway" and "Hell's Kitchen," on the other hand, are less Krautrock than the bio would want you to believe and more futuristic sounding, not unlike the recent impressive cuts Kruder released on Gigolo a few weeks ago. It all ends with "Silver Machine," a fitting Hawkwind cover that features the voices of Marsmobil and Billie Ray Martin (except this time, the songstress's performance has nothing to do with the operatic, stagy manners of "Je regrette everything"): The track has an air of mature self-restraint and serene composure, something you could have never accused Hell of in the past.
Everyone always thought the Hell that Hell has been promoting for more than a decade now in interviews—and with his label's releases—was heavily fashion-conscious and image-bound; his linking to electroclash at the beginning of the decade only helped enhanced this feeling. But by refusing to let himself and his sound be defined by contemporary scenes, Hell has been able to create a fascinating persona over the years, and this time with Teufelswerk, the faintly pretentious stances and self-aggrandizing declarations are actually backed up by the music itself. The fact that you could have never said that about any albums ever released on Gigolo is—after more then ten years of existence—an enormous accomplishment.
01. U Can Dance (feat. Bryan Ferry)
02. Electronic Germany
03. The DJ feat. P. Diddy
04. The Disaster
08. Friday, Saturday, Sunday
02. The Angst & The Angst Pt 2
03. Carte Blanche
04. Track Four "Nightclubbing"
05. I Prefer Women to Men Anyway
06. Action (Interlude)
07. Hell's Kitchen
08. Silver Machine