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From Raw To Clean: Helena Hauff's Favourite Records
Kate Hutchinson , August 1st, 2018 09:37

Ahead of her appearance at this month's Berlin Atonal festival, Helena Hauff guides Kate Hutchinson through 13 favourite records, from Iggy to Serge and Loop to a host of true bangerz

You only need look at Helena Hauff's tracklisting to see that she's a hoot. Her new album Qualm sounds like it's trying to crack the matrix: deliciously squelchy, subtly creeping with unease, slicing and thwacking break beats boasting gun-metal precision, an ominous nuclear-green fogginess, like you're listening through night vision glasses. It's a rough hewn synthesis of acid, techno and particularly Radioactive Man-era electro, as if a mutant Keanu Reeves might start dodging bullets at any minute in those very 90s sunglasses.

  And yet, unusually for machine music that errs on the side of dystopian science fiction, titles like 'Lifestyle Guru', 'Barrow Boot Boys', 'Fag Butts In The Fire Bucket' suggest an electronic producer that doesn't take themselves too seriously. "I like humour," she says of them. "I don't know how funny they are, but I found it really funny."

  An exchange with Hauff over Skype from her kitchen in Hamburg is much the same. She is wickedly witty, whether discussing the primal pull of club culture ("it's very sexual"), how to avoid peeing during marathon DJ sets ("drink lots of vodka, straight") or sex jams. "Someone once said that [REDACTED - A FAMOUS TECHNO DJ] plays Sade when he's got sex," she titters. "It's probably one of those rumours."

  Qualm, her first release on Ninja Tune after 2015's acclaimed debut Discreet Desires, follows a breakthrough few years for Hauff. Once a resident at the anything-goes Golden Pudel club in her hometown, her DJ sets have become among the most talked-about of the festival calendar. There's a fag permanently jutting out of her mouth as she spins, ready to slam on the brake and take a left-turn with an even weirder record. And she is leading the charge for anarchic club music with her releases on labels like Actress's Werkdiscs, PAN, Dark Entries and Lux Rec, as well as her own imprint since 2015, Return To Disorder.  

Hauff, however, takes umbrage with the idea that playing tough music isn't feminine or that the music she plays is too "masculine". "I don't know where this idea comes from that something sounds "blokey'," she says. "I remember what a DJ in Hamburg once said about me to another person. Someone asked him, 'What did you think of Helena's set?' and he told them, 'Yeah, it's not really my thing. She plays as if she has the biggest cock in the universe…'. "Well, yeah, I do," she laughs, "I've got a massive cock."  

For Qualm, instead of liberally waving around that ego, she wanted to go back to basics. "When I started making music, I used a computer," she says. "The possibilities were endless, you could do whatever, and I found that very confusing at the beginning." As a result she used only a strict few bits of analogue equipment to achieve her sound. "I thought the concept of creating something within limitations, something powerful not using a lot of elements, was very interesting," she explains. In the end, she says, "I found it liberating".  

Hauff's approach may be minimal but it has all the raw power of her favourite album's namesake, which kicks off her 12 picks. To begin reading the list click the image below. Helena Hauff plays this year's Berlin Atonal Festival this August - for more information and the rest of their incredible line-up, visit the festival site.