Helena Hauff Qualm Ninja Tune
Sometimes it’s good to get your face rubbed in the dirt, and Helena Hauff is happy to oblige on her second album, Qualm. The track titles alone (Primordial Sludge, The Smell of Suds and Steel, Fag Butts in the Fire Bucket) create stark and gritty imagery to warn a listener: ‘don’t get comfortable.’
The top-tier electro DJ’s affinity for battered-sounding hardware remains potent. And while she isn’t the first in recent years to shun hi-tech production tools, Hauff makes her machines bleed better than most. Qualm kicks off with Barrow Boot Boys – a grizzly, blown-out drum track that runs the levels straight into the red, before Lifestyle Guru steps up the tempo and introduces raw, troubling layers of synth. At its peak, it positively buckles under the weight of its untreated parts, over-saturated and reminiscent of straight-to-tape techno.
Hyper-Intelligent Genetically Enriched Cyborg is a highlight – an acid-soaked stomper which quite suddenly morphs into a glorious Italo-style workout. There’s a demolished quality of the record and a couple of overly-indulgent moments mean there’s no point in pretending Qualm is for everyone. But maybe that’s the way club music should be.