There is something wonderfully sleazy about Hiltmeyer, Inc. The music sounds a little bit retro but not terribly so, successfully melding a number of influences into something not quite old but still refreshingly familiar. This is techno music pared down to its libido: menacing synthesizers, crisply indolent 808 drum beats, spare bits of electro and disco applied purely for ornament. If I press the Mega Bass button on my CD player the tracks become almost totally obscured under the cacophonous low-end rumble: the sound of Godzilla getting horny.
The man behind the sound is Alex Andre Hofmann, a German of American descent who created his sound after being exposed to a wide variety of European dance. The Hiltmeyer project, while ostensibly techno, is eclectic enough in its approach to accommodate a multitude of styles. It all ends up sounding rather decadent and diabolical, in any event.
The album kicks off with “Narcotic”, built on a fat bassline that reminds me of what Sticky Fingers-era Stones would sound like on the Bizarro world. Every sound, from the sweeping synthesizers to the vocal snippets, is engineered in such a way that it sounds like rough, crushed-velvet sex. “Pornhaus”, as you might expect from the title, keeps the sexual connotations high with a faux-disco bassline redolent of—what else?—late ‘70s boom-chica-chica-boom porn soundtracks.
“S7” ups the tempo—consequently dropping the sex appeal considerably—with a bit of a classic house sound. The implacable mid-tempo beat, the gradually cresting synthesizer arpeggio, even the weird horn squeaks all contribute to the time-warp sensation. “Finalahh” continues the previous track’s preoccupation with droning melody lines by introducing a low-key 303 acid line. Whereas the more high-pitched tweakin’ acid line carry psychedelic connotations, the low rumble that carried through “Finalhh”, like Death In Vegas’ “Scorpio”, is definitely once again a reminder of sex.
“Synthipopü”, just as it says, looks back fondly at the synthesized pop of the ‘80s. However, whereas many producers have adapted the surface characteristics of the period, Hofmann seems to understand, even without the benefit of words, that the real appeal of most synthpop was not so much the sound but the mood: arch, elegiac, and ironically majestic. “Hillygirl” uses a fast, almost drum & bass tempo to bring the techno elements into a less vitiated atmosphere. It comes across like a Luke Vibert (circa Drum & Bass For Papa) remix of “Hey Ya”, albeit with a bit less whimsy than that would immediately suggest.
“Rockabill” continues in the higher tempo with a ragged, debauched bassline torn across the length of the track. It doesn’t really go anywhere—but then, a lot of Hofmann’s tracks could legitimately be said to be more concerned with mood than structure. “Valleybass” sends the album off on a sinister note, a violent beat coupled with a frenetic melody line and space war 303 riffs. It sounds like a Martian invasion played at half-speed.
It would be easy to criticize Hiltmeyer, Inc. for placing style over substance. His songwriting skills are minimal, serving only as pretence to showcase different moods and textures. However, in the context of an occasionally deracinated techno scene, such an emphasis on sensuality and visceral behavior is refreshing.
// Notes from the Road
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