Is this a golden age for new electronics? Maybe. Look around...Rashad Becker, Yves De Mey, Seth Nehil, Shapednoise...name your favourites. If there's a defining pendulum of current Good Taste it seems to be swinging towards the outer limits of sound, but there isn't and I'm only wishing it was so.
The name 'Rene Hell' sounds like a) a teenage rampage Techno DJ, b) a terminal Doom Ambient artist, c) master of Thrash Mechanics (that's a genuine genre, honest). Guess what, he's none of those. He is, though, a man of many aliases (Abelar Scout, Marble Sky, Secret Abuse and Impregnable), all of which you can have fun finding out about if you have a few spare hours. His real name is Jeffrey D. Witscher which, er, I reckon he'll revert to one day when he's old(er), bearded, grey and embarrassed to be known as Rene Hell. Or not.
Past albums have displayed numerous influences, especially Philip Glass's brand of minimalism along with the multitude of other electronic pioneers whose siren songs have lured each generation. The fact that the Stockhausen squad exists warms my heart. Yes, of course his name's been dropped many times over the years, but few manifestations of hours spent absorbing Kontakte come close to the great man's work.
Ah, the anxiety of influence, no artist is truly free of it. But to be inspired by the legends can only be a good thing. Better still, as with Vanilla Call Option, the artist might shrug free from the burden of influence to forge something close to a singular vision. I'm guessing, though, that the likes of Francoise Bayle and Francis Dhomont make up a considerable portion of Witscher's listening (Le Kitchen Map). He's still polishing Glass on Var Len. Titles such as This Is Chess and The Chess Sickness tell of his passion for the game, as does the deep thinking that obviously went into making the album. That or I'm mistaken and he cobbled it together one afternoon, which seems unlikely.
When asked about the album a while back he said: 'It may be a more difficult listen but I think it’s interesting.' (interview). That's true according to how finely-tuned your ears are. Whilst much of it tests your ability to entertain high-pitch twiddling, more immediate kicks come from Unpack;glue, with it's backdrop of torrential rain acting as a sheet of sound upon which Hell can scratch sound. Kalashnikov Uzi is a very impressive exercise in tense acousmatics dissolving into a simple, plaintive piano before building intensity levels again.
Yet as he's proven on previous releases, he's capable of working in many styles and Merci Cheri stands out as a fuller, orchestral sound, albeit a time-warped orchestra reworked by Pierre Schaeffer.
This album will prove too 'difficult' for some but should be of interest to those with open ears.
From The Terminal Symphony album...