After Actio Reactio announced her arrival in the recording world via Werkdiscs, Helena Hauff now finds herself in an interesting position creatively some two years later. The Hamburg resident is unquestionably part of the analogue revival, with a devoutly hardware live jam studio method that pushes up against the limitation of ubiquitous devices such as the 808 and the 303, and the instantly-recognisable character of such machines positively surged out of her early releases. Last year’s Return To Disorder release for Panzerkreuz still came from a long line of drum-focused hard-as-nails acid techno, but really the secret of Hauff’s success to date has been in her particular way of processing those sounds and layering them up with an industrial attitude that speaks more to the punk roots of the style rather than the icy mechanisms of sound design that abound in the work of other artists.
That punk spirit is very much intact on Lex Tertia, but it feels as though a different texture is being reached for which perhaps marks a step towards the next evolution of her sound. “Drowning Demons” and “The Bean Field And The Gods” are close cousins sonically, as both tracks sit on a bed of droning low end tone that casts a dark spell over the track. In its inherent harmonics, that tone actually injects a sense of colour that wasn’t always apparent in a lot of Hauff’s pre-existing work, even if it sticks to one note for the entire track. There are also other elements at play that paint a broader emotional picture, with “Drowning Demons” particularly decorated with a wonderful arpeggio that sits over the top of the gnarly acid throb. The monolithic rising notes that worm their way into the clamour of “The Bean Field And The Gods” too tell a story that is not restricted to stern percussive blasts, and even if the emotion is a rather unfriendly one it still feels more expressive than some of the rawer 808 throwdowns of her recent past.
“Reaktion I” and “Reaktion II” are actually two alternative versions of “Actio Reactio” that find Hauff revisiting her breakthrough track to see where else the established structure might lead. The first part is a short and sweet exercise that revels in swelling effects processing that borders on ear-splitting as it pushes into the red, while the second spreads itself out as a more considered individual track which plays with the percussive formations and edges itself into a dynamic, contorting arrangement of broken beat patterns with those distinctive cowbell tones ringing out into a dystopian drama. It’s powerful, if perhaps not as evocative as the first two tracks.
“The First Time He Thought He Died” however returns the focus to a more diverse approach, complete with sinister synth lines, scrapes of found sound and a thoroughly steady electro beat that doesn’t even touch upon distortion. It’s a very different listening experience in the world of Helena Hauff, and truth be told it’s no bad thing to hear her branching out into pastures new.
When announcing this release Hauff told us that her next record would be “very different”, which adds weight to the idea that she is indeed moving beyond the needlepoint focus of her initial identity. This is in no way to discredit those first releases as they were indeed worthy of praise, but it also felt like a style that had a finite amount of variations before the inspiration would run dry. Some artists have fallen foul of flogging a dead horse, so Lex Tertia seems like a perfect indication of Hauff’s decision to move on and give us something new to digest. On the strength of the pointers contained within this release, her next steps should be very interesting indeed.
1. Drowning Demons
2. The Bean Field And The Gods
3. Reaktion I
4. Reaktion II
5. The First Time He Thought, He Died