Hecq :: Steeltongued (Hymen)

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(October 2009) That Benny Boysen is a sound designer of distinction is evident from his CV, evidencing work for Big Boys like Toyota, Nike and Sony, as well as game soundtrack credentials. But despite this appeal to the differently audio-literate world of corporate advertising and the youth culture mainstream, his work as Hecq remains fairly uncompromisingly situated under a banner of post-industrial IDM, with stripes of breakcore and dark-ambient drone. Steeltongued is an album that runs through the Hecq checklist: tensile hyper-timbral rhythm programming (check); neo-Gothic post-classical digi-symphonics (check); diminished and augmented harmonics (check); consonant and dissonant digital drones (check). So what the Hecq is new? Short answer: not much, if anything. More extended commentary follows.

“Typhon” and “Steeltongued,” both written in 2007 and 2008, provided the blueprint for the album, which might account for a certain sense of déja vu, but maybe more is the parallels with 2007’s 0000, likewise featuring a second disc given over to other artist remixes, not to mention previous release, Night Falls; strong echoes of its spectral string swathes ghosting through midnight blue-pitch black atmospheres and dissolving melodic motifs find their way onto Steeltongued. In fact, CD1 doesn’t deviate much from the Hecq signature style: “Spires Awake,” with its sudden volume surges and fall-aways, plunges us straight into a doom-zone redolent of the pristine end of the Euro-Gothic dark ambient of the Cold Meat Industry roster. The Hecq-a-tomb gradually opens out elsewhere into a studied form of breakcore (cf. “Howler”), though Hecq’s rhythmic muscle-flexings actually feel somewhat boxed-in when they should be ranging free. And the hip-hop workout, “I Will Survive,” featuring Shadowhuntaz rapper Nongenetic, is an ill-advised stylistic exercise. “Hypnos,” a paean to stasis in three parts, ends disc 1, and sees a return to the bombastic neo-classical drone altar of CMI and other eschatologically-inclined denominations. CD2 is effectively a compilation album in itself, with twelve other artists submitting various retoolings of the title track. Among the stylings are melodic electronica (Xabec, bringing echoes of early-90s FSOL), glitch and noise hybrids (Spyweirdos), and Skam-school subbed-up breakbeat (from near-veterans Si Begg, Team Doyobi, and ex-Funkstörung operative, Michael Fakesch). Younger pretenders bring dystopian dubstep (Disscoxx), post-grime bass-meant beats (Mothboy), and noir-cinematic post-industrial IDM (Blackfilm), while the bruised ambience explored by Moteer’s El Fog and n5md’s Tobias Lilja offers perhaps the most subtle unpindownable specimens.

But, back to Boysen, six albums on he remains short of fully realising his undoubted skills as a sound designer in full-length form. That his sequences of glorified game accompaniments and bleak micro-soundtracks to existential mini-melodramas again don’t add up to a satisfying whole is perhaps indicative of an artist whose work is still better consumed in short-hop snacks rather than as long-haul feast. Hecq’s music is often interesting and invariably well produced but there is a lacuna somewhere in its fabric that’s hard to pinpoint exactly; a soft target could be its failure to connect emotionally; not that it doesn’t reference emotion, but that it gestures at its signifiers without feeling it, or, rather, without making signified feelings felt. Steeltongued is more a play of slick surfaces, and, on that level, brings its own superficial satisfaction, but one attended by a sense of the void at the centre of its being.

Steeltongued is out now on Hymen. [Listen & Purchase]

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