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Helena Hauff: Qualm — abrasive techno

Helena Hauff: Qualm — abrasive techno

August 07
02:48 2018

Helena Hauff is based in one of Europe’s rock-and-roll crucibles — Hamburg, the German port where The Beatles were hardened as performers and Jerry Lee Lewis recorded his famously rough-and-ready live album, Live at the Star Club, Hamburg.

The city is no longer the tough seaport of dockers and US GIs. These days it tops polls of pleasant places where Germans would like to live. But its rock-and-roll heritage can be heard in the abrasive techno on Hauff’s new album, Qualm.

Opening track “Barrow Boot Boys” sets the tone with an intense percussive groove that seems to test the limits of the sound system, spilling into distortion. The nicely named “Lifestyle Guru” sets up a limber aerobic routine that then morphs into a fierce acid-house workout, an energetic assertion of alternative lifestyles.

The spirit of the music is similar to the messy collision between rock and techno engineered by the Chemical Brothers in the 1990s, although Hauff’s version is less playful. “Fag Butts in the Fire Bucket” has a title that perfectly evokes the rowdy back-room-of-a-pub ethos of a Skint Records release from 20 years ago. But the track’s low-frequency electronic oscillations and synthesiser drones give it an impressively ominous mood, the opposite of escapism.

Melody enters the frame in “Entropy Created You and Me”, a sequence of simple chiming cycles that proceed to spin out of kilter with one another. “Primordial Sludge” sandpapers off any New Age associations from ambient music and reimagines it as the soundtrack for immersion in a viscous pool of dark matter — not unlike the beer-sloshed, cigarette-strewn floor of a Reeperbahn concert-hall of days gone by.


Qualm’ is released by Ninja Tune

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