NY Muscle by Hell (a fitting alias for Helmut Josef Geier) was originally released on Motor Music in late 2003 and has now been reissued on Hell's own International DeeJay Gigolo Records label with an added bonus track and a video for the single Keep on Waiting.
While this album was recorded in NYC, it still retains a heavily Germanic feel to it - thanks to Hell's mix of techno and industrial sounds. Hell is joined by a stew of collaborators, including Erlend Øye (from Kings Of Convenience), Alan Vega (from Suicide), James Murphy (from LCD Soundsystem), Thomas Lorello, Tommie Sunshine, Meredith Danluck (painter and video director), Melvin Oliphant, Billie Ray Martin, Michael Diamantopolous, and John Selway - and of course the whole thing is co-produced by Abe Duque.
At times the album seems only as good as Hell's collaborators, because often it seems like Hell allows his collaborator's too much free reign. Tragic Picture Show which features vocals by James Murphy and Tommie Sunshine tries to merge the rock and electronic sounds (like LCD Soundsystem) but just comes off as overly obnoxious and pretentious, while Let No Man Jack with vocals by Melvin Oliphant is too hedonistic with no connection between the in your face industrial vocal and the meandering techno backing track. The remixes of the latter track also improved it immensely, trimming away some of the excessive fat for two awesome and varied mixes. I also wasn't a fan of the gothic overtones of Je Regrette Everything featuring vocals by Billie Ray Martin who sounds like Annie Lennox with a musical backing like Angelo Badalamenti, and with lyrics sung both in English and in French.
It is on the tracks where Hell meets eye to eye with his collaborators that this album shows some muscle. Or it's when, as often is the case, when Hell manipulate their vocals or has allowed their vocals to be manipulated in order to create the true Hell sound, that this album rises above the aforementioned tracks.
Both Listen to the Hiss and Meet the Heat - two collaborative tracks with Alan Vega - are prime examples of the Hell goodness turned into a Throbbing Gristle-like madness of electronic pop music. Follow You (with icy and detached vocals by Meredith Danluck) and Wired (with some computerized vocals) also show this cool vocal manipulation that makes for some uneasy listening. Limbische System, Control and I Am Amanda le Pore (the last has a bassline like Cannonball by the Breeders and was also featured on the International DeeJay Gigolos CD Eight compilation) are basic evil techno Hell instrumentals which still were favorites of mine, while Black Panther Party moves into Abe Duque land by combining samples from the Black Panther party and a killer electronic track.
NY Muscle makes for a nice companion to some other Gigolo albums which have come out recently, like Abe Duque's So Underground It Hurts - and in fact the formula used by Abe Duque on his album is similar to what Hell does here - by combining the techno sound and collaborating vocalists, and sometimes just voice samples with an industrial techno mentality.