Album Review: Helena Hauff - Have You Been There, Have You Seen It EP
In her renowned DJ sets, Helena Hauff is unafraid to bring the onslaught, delivering high-BPM techno pulverisers in sets that seem to start at full-throttle and somehow accelerate in volume and intensity without losing footing or steam. On the other hand, over the course of myriad singles, EPs and long-players, Hauff has proven herself more than merely adept at making club bangers; she spends ample time exploring the boundaries of techno, acid and house in productions that may not necessarily fit into her thrilling vinyl-spinning hours. It’s on her studio work that she shows the full range of her influences and understanding of darker, more textured music, which evidently benefits her when it comes to being behind the decks – even if the sounds coming from the speakers in the two instances might be something subtly but indisputably different.
The German producer’s new 4-track EP Have You Been There, Have You Seen It follows this form, comprising tracks that can undoubtedly be danced to, but don’t have the same slamming bass that forms the rigid backbone of her DJ sets. As usual, she is more focused on making intricate rhythms and percussive elements, rather than grounding her productions on concrete slabs of thudding bass drums. This is evident immediately on the opener ‘Nothing Is What I Know’, where a tricky drum pattern takes hold in the centre of the mix, and remains throughout the song’s nearly-eight-minutes unchanged, forming the complex core of the track. From there a wheedling synth melody skips its way amidst the clicks, adding some colour, and even some sighing vocals flutter down into the mix, but it remains that core percussion that is the focal point. It’s a tempered and patient start to the EP, like Hauff stirring the batter before she can actually start to bake.
Things quickly get heated on second track ‘Do You Really Think Like That’, where the percussion has moved to the outskirts and pops with airiness like bubbles whirring around chutes, bringing much needed oxygen to the chunky central synths. The simple interplay between these percussive and synthetic elements is a true delight, creating an irresistible stomper worthy of any house party, if not quite club-ready. Hauff is constantly warping the textures of the melodic synths throughout the track’s running, but there’s no denying there’s a catchiness to their insistence, and it’s not unlikely that they could get stuck in your head or be sung along to.
Things are slowed down slightly on ‘Continuez Mon Enfant Vous Serez Traité En Conséquence’, Hauff giving herself more breathing space in which to play around with her analogue toys. The ear-scouring bassy synth that underpins the song quickly recedes to its rightful place, bottom-feeding while various squelches and chirruping high-hats let their hair down to skate across its surface. This soon runs aground into mucky distorted end, overall resulting in much more of a think-piece akin to some of Hauff’s finer and more stately productions. The EP rounds out with ‘Gift’, which again seems to have its roots in the dancefloor, but where many might opt for a juddering bass pulse, here we instead have the delightful pop of a simple drum beat and the satisfying wobble of the synths underpinning. You can hear why this was chosen as the lead single from this release, as Hauff throws in everything, from clicks to fluttering arpeggios, but never does it seem crowded. It might not really go anywhere in particular, and the sudden fade-out ending betrays this, but in full flight ‘Gift’ is a joy to behold.
Have You Been There, Have You Seen It is the kind of release that will certainly sate fans of Hauff’s past work, and perhaps its release on the renowned Ninja Tune label will encourage many more newcomers. This might be the ideal entry point for them, as it allows in more light and melody than much of her previous output; if there were a vocal added to ‘Do You Really Think Like That’ there might even be potential for a minor crossover hit. That is probably the furthest thing from Helena Hauff’s mind though, as we can be sure she is already focused on sculpting her next release.
This article was originally published on The 405 - 3rd November 2017.