Thursday, January 22, 2004


Helmut Geier – a one-man enigma-maker, scene-builder and breaker, the anti-superstar DJ, overlord of cool, Munich Machine, rhythm killer, phantom, fake, ex-punk, international deejay gigolo, poseur, bon viveur and man called Hell – has finally ridden out the crash of the hype-wave and delivered his first album in six years. The interceding years since ‘98’s ‘Munich Machine’ have seen many changes – culminating in a dubious collaboration with P. Diddy – but what was nascent then has solidified into a hard, shiny bullet of an aesthetic with a laser-guided vision informed and galvanised by another city - this time New York City, where the album was refined and ripped from a collaboration of broken souls, addled minds and nervous energies, including Alan Vega, James Murphy, Erlend Oye, Billie Ray Martin and Hell himself. ‘NY Muscle’ is the sound of the City, and because the City has high blood pressure it’s also the sound of massed anxiety – a night-ride to the edge of panic.

As an album it’s intense, stylised, fatalistic, hedonistic and 100% fat-free. Opening with the degenerative analogue power riffs of ‘Keep on Waiting’, Kings of Convenience's Oye sheds the comfy jumpers for studded leather, laying a nonchalant vocal about time and patience over sounds as big and unwieldy as the machines that no doubt produced them. The mark of Suicide is scored deep into the album’s flesh, and there could barely be a better place for Alan Vega to make a guest appearance, acting like a kind of dark spiritual omnipresence on two tracks, if not the entire album, mumbling, shrieking and invoking mayhem. First is ‘Listen to the Hiss’ – led by a gut-rumbling tom-tom beat, it snarls and sizzles like wet cables sparking in the dark, a whole room charged with static as Vega’s lost existential anti-hero babbles deranged, pained and insane, whilst ‘Meet the Heat’ sees him losing it over a taut, raw and wired drum track and slamming-door FX.

DFA man Murphy does his LCD Soundsystem thing on ‘Tragic Picture Show’. “Don’t play the song, I’m just gonna read it like I’m losing my fucking mind”, he begins, before recounting a string of clichés in clumsy rhyme that nevertheless set the scene for Hell’s New York predicament, teetering on mental collapse whilst trying to maintain his cool. “Black suit, black tie/feeling like I wanna die”… “Designer shoes hit the pavement cold/Acting young and feeling old” … “Here I am, another nervous breakdown”… it goes, before literally breaking gown into angry punk abandon, thrashing and lashing out before returning to an ice-cool groove. Meanwhile, ‘Follow You’ – featuring what sounds like the equally ubiquitous Chicks on Speed – is an anxiety-wracked stalker’s theme, bursts of searing white noise punctuating an incessant bleep sequence. The iron girders of the groove are beset by disorientating vocal/noise/FX, sending your head swimming and making your stomach sick as a female voice promises to “follow you, wherever you go.”

Again, with ‘Let No Man Jack’, comes the unrelenting jack-box thump, the gargled NY voice of some wicked shaman connecting a line between Bam Bam’s ‘Where’s Your Child’ and Nitzer Ebb’s ‘Join In The Chant’, screaming an invocation to riot as lysergic bubbles burst across the surface, building to a chaotic crescendo with horrible screams of pain, confusion and fear as moody synth chords wrap it all up and take it one step further into the stobing black hole. The closing ‘Wired’ maintains the ‘losing it’ theme – Tommy Sunshine ranting about “the static in my head” over another bared-boned rhythm track.

‘Limbische System’ marks a halfway point, coming on like a Basic Channel-esque journey through a catatonic state, where beauty and confusion swim in watery, unblinking eyes. Whilst the heart still beats, the head is away in dreams; escaping, destroying all artifice and getting inside where its warmer and safer and numb. More dramatic is ‘Je Regrette Everything’, featuring ex-Electribe 101 chanteuse Billy Ray Martin sounding powerful, glamorous and remarkably like a darkside Shirley Bassey. A noirish, funereal torch song, it’s utterly, decadently, deathly elegant, with Martin delivering the line, “’Cos I regret everything/And I know it will wipe me away,” before reverting to French, her play on Edith Piaf bringing the walls tumbling down in a tear-stained release of nervous tension.

You could call it ‘death disco’, but this is also powerfully affirmative – the will to dance being an affirmation of life, an expression of existence as well as an escape. ‘NY Muscle’ is a finely honed vision, but as full as contradictions as Hell’s own carefully-crafted persona. It’s the dark flipside of the jetsetting Gigolo dream, where the cocktails are all spiked with nightmares, the clubs are plagued with demons and the insomnia’ll send you mad before the drugs kill you. Whilst ‘NY Muscle’ could be a lament for dance music culture - sick with a deadly malaise yet throbbing, unkillable, hardened to self-abuse - it could also be the beginning of something else entirely. For better or worse, the devil has all the best tunes now and his resident DJ is called Hell. ///

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

sort it out and post something, michael

oh, alright then... ///

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