By the point Hell settled down in New York City to produce what would become his NY Muscle album, he'd pretty much done it all. He'd been DJing for two decades, having long ago arisen to "superstar" status; he'd produced a legion of tracks of various sorts for various labels, beginning back in the early '90s when techno was first overtaking his native Germany; he'd released numerous albums, both DJ mix and production ones; and he'd founded one of Germany's (and, by extension, the world's) premier electro-techno labels, International Deejay Gigolo Records, the home of such marquee talent as Tiga, Miss Kittin & the Hacker, and Fischerspooner, to just name a few of the more commercially successful artists he'd released recently. So when it came time for Hell to produce NY Muscle, his first studio album in a long while, he did so with great ambition, not content with just releasing a run-of-the-mill slab of dance music. He not only moved to New York City for about a half-year, he also collaborated with a number of colorful artists, most notably Alan Vega (of Suicide), Erlend Øye (of the Kings of Convenience), James Murphy (of the DFA), and Billie Ray Martin (a German techno diva of a myriad one-off collabos). The resulting album is across the board, in a good way, with essentially every track distinct and interesting. NY Muscle is the sort of album where you're continually (and pleasantly) surprised from one track to the next as it veers to and fro, never settling into a complacent groove for more than a track or two at a time. Hell sticks with his forte -- dark and foreboding yet quirky electro-techno -- and produces what might seem on the surface like rather simple tracks, except nothing here is straightforward. There is no preexisting schema for these productions. They may be electro-techno, but they purposefully steer away from the norm and venture into curious territory without fail, whether it be jacking acid techno or Miss Kittin-style electro-pop. To make mention of the individual tracks themselves is beyond the confines of this space, for every track here is noteworthy on some level; however, there are a few standout tracks, chief among them those featuring the aforementioned collaborations. "Keep On Waiting" is above all the key single, and it comes with an accompanying CD-ROM video that is well worth your time, as it makes visual the key motif of the album, that being a distinctly European and decidedly decadent view of N.Y.C. For instance, the press materials frame the album with quotes from Franz Kafka's America novel fragment, and it's a fitting connection indeed. This is the sound of nighttime New York City from the outsider perspective of an infamous German named Hell, and it's dark, dark, debauched fun.
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AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
feat: Alan Vega
feat: Billie Ray Martin
feat: Alan Vega