Album Review: DJ Hell | Body Language 9

Originally published in Time Out Chicago magazine | 08.19.10

DJ Hell


Get Physical! Records

house \haus \ n + tech•no \tek-nõ\ n

DJ Hell has been called a lot of things—International DJ Gigolo, fashion icon, musical visionary—but none seems more befitting the 49-year-old than provocateur. For more than 20 years he’s kept up his rep by being simultaneously sophisticated and sleazy. With his inclusion in the venerated annals of Body Language, Get Physical’s much lauded mix-CD series, he’s stayed the course, even if it leads down a musical river Styx to the underworld club of Hell’s own making.

This mix places the Hell among some of the best house and techno minds currently—an elite club that includes Detroit techno mastermind Matthew Dear; the king of Germany’s deep house scene, Dixon; and the frontrunner of the fidget movement, Jesse Rose. And you can tell he’s comfortable here. Leading off with an ambient retelling of the Balearic classic “Sueño Latino” updated by Christian Prommer and remixed by Hell himself, the impeccably tasteful selector spends the next 23 tracks in a whirlwind of thumps, bumps, groans and clicks, all glazed over with glitz and glam.

Early on, the tribal techno jazz of King Britt’s rerub of Josh One’s “Contemplation” bleeds into Ursula Rucker’s deadpan spoken word on Will Saul and Tam Cooper’s “Where Is It?” She urges us to “scream for it,” adding to the sexual overtones that Hell peppers throughout the mix. Later, on Ché’s ’96 throwback “The Incident,” the steaminess heats up even further, as a female companion is asked if she’ll “let me put my tongue in your navel.”

But Hell delicately tempers his x-rated tendencies. There is much air between each flirty come-on, and even multiple respites from the otherwise steady stomping of techno drums and deep house synths. At points, the beat disappears almost completely, favoring the avant-garde classical cover of Kraftwerk’s “The Robots” by the Balanescu Quartet and the glittery ballad “Forbidden Colours” by former Japan frontman David Sylvian. He’s not even above the disco cheese of Walter Murphy’s “A Fifth of Beethoven” or ending with David Bowie. Hell’s years living the hedonistic high life prove that he knows how to have a blast, and this mix is nothing if not that.—Joshua P. Ferguson



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