DJ Hell at Volar Review - 2nd November 2007

I'm running a little late for DJ Hell's Hong Kong debut at Volar. No problems getting in thanks to Nick W.and his mighty reach. Downstairs, Anthony is just starting his set and leans over to say hi and have a beer. The table I usually take is occupied. No problem. Move back one table and engage in a spirited conversation with Bobbie and Christian. She's Canadian. He's Swiss and they're new to HK's rave scene. None of us have seen Hell before, but Christian has done the Swiss equivalent of the Berlin Love Parade. They both like Groove Armada and we all agree that the beer prices are rather exorbitant. I've also caught up with Cecile and Pierre, two French friends from last year's Rock-It Festival. They're hosting Par Ici, a French electro party at Volar on 15-11-07 at Volar. I promise to be there. Meanwhile, Anthony's set seems identical to the one he played before Tommy Sunshine last month. It's a bounty of bubbly, bouncing beats. Riffs twanging and meshing and interweaving. There are several dancers strutting their stuff and the visuals are fantastic. There's the same alien teletubbies. Monster cars straight out of American Graffiti. The tumbling laser shapes inviting you through the Star Gate via some Altered States cosmic pulsating neon blobs. All nicely synched... 

Suddenly, I'm jarred out of my conversation as Anthony heads into more prog territory. Very reminiscent of John Digweed and then there's the cartoon squeal of brakes and crashing cars. Yes, it's the same headshredding tune that began Tommy's set last time. Anthony tells me later that it's by Layo and Bushwhacker. Bloody brilliant. It's the downside of Kraftwerk's "Autobahn" and would make a very interesting mashup, The drums sound like chuffing, clackety trains and the melody phaseshifts through the gears. Rotating dancers tumble across the big screeen and the place is heaving. Anthony has entered new sonic terrain. There's a peak of about 30 minutes which is lysergic dub/echo deep prog trance at its finest. My brain's in meltdown. I take my metaphorical headbanger's cap off to you my man!

DJ Hell has been "in da house" for about 20 minutes. His crew are in the VIP seats while he prepares to take over. He's in a black leather jacket and his hair is shorter than in the photo that the SCMP used in it's article on 1-11-07. David Momphard wrote that his set will comprise "...Chicago acid house, Detroit minimalism and some German trance".  I'm writing some garbled notes when suddenly... "can you please move. This table is reserved". Reserved? In the middle of a crowd that would do justice to several squashed MTR carriages at rush hour? I didn't know this was possible, but we are in a night club and not at HITEC. I squeeze down. The other people don't mind and the Veuve Cliquot starts to flow. The big screen has descended and when it rises, all Hell is breaking loose. The opening section of his set is sleazy electronica. Reminds me of Swiss trio Yello as remixed by Adrian Sherwood. A  torrent of weird 'tronics over a 4-D shifting electro-twang. Very similar in style to Peter Hook's gig at Tribeca in 2005(?)

The tunes follow each other in a splendid cacophony. Two lovely ladies are strutting on the catwalk. A very nice man called Damian has slipped me a large vodka/Red Bull. It's nearly impossible to move on the floor as it's so crowded. A vocoder-vox is chanting "this is cocaine speaking" followed by a gruntvox sample intoning "low, low, low, this is how we make techno". All times appear to have merged. I recall that Miss Kitten (who's also played Volar) has recorded on Hell's International Gigolo Label. So in keeping with the feline metaphor I've decided that Tommy Sunshine is Sylvester (and Tweety) while DJ Hell is Fritz the Cat. Cartoon violence versus cartoon sleaze. 

It's some indeterminate moment later and a stunning remix of Depeche Mode's "Everything Counts" is blasting away. I'm flashing back to the Timo gig when he blew a few minds with his remix of DM's "Personal Jesus". These two guys would do a great head to head. Hell's electro-sleaze up against Timo's hard and squelchy style. The floor is writhing. Andy Warhol-type visuals freaking and flashing on the screens. Acid clocks collide with more treated vox as the set winds down. The last song I know is a heavy-on-the-drums  synapse-crunching version of "I Feel Love" - the old Donna Summer/Giorgio Moroder 70's disco classic. Moretts is on stage and he slows it right down to end Hell's set and prepare to start his own. I'm knackered. Bobbie and Christian have left a couple of eons ago. Time enough to thank Mr. Helmut Geier for his stunning performance, get him to sign his latest DJ mix CD for me and slip him something of mine for his listening pleasure. Time to leave, get some midnight munchies and grab the ferry home. Thanks Volar for another fantabulous night! 

Review by Nick L.


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