Rene Hell: Porcelain Opera
Type Recordings

US electronic noise figure Jeffrey D. Witscher (aka Marble Sky, Secret Abuse, and Impregnable) uses the alias Rene Hell for the grainy, analogue-heavy kosmische musik captured on Porcelain Opera (note that the vinyl edition comes with a bonus nine-track CD album called Rogue Camera). There are whooshes and mini-sunbursts aplenty to go along with the percussive synthesizer loops that form the tracks' rhythmic underpinning.

The material's kosmische musik character receives a strong workout in the opening track. “Razor. P+” inaugurates the album on a bubbly tip with a swirling mix of pulsating synth patterns, treated voice fragments, and a woozy second half where a panorama of clockwork keyboard melodies grows ever tipsier. Plunging deeper into the rabbit hole, “Prize Mischief Hold” and “C.G. Mask” escalate the tripped-out vibe by coupling analogue spews of sputtering synth materials with distorted voice effects that swim through the mix. A restless quality pervades much of the album's material with elements constantly re-shaping themselves. If there's an exception to that rule, it's “iV 18:54,” a protypical drone setting that pulsates more reservedly than the other tracks. Despite being more conservative in character, listening interest is still maintained due to the blinding radiance generated by the drone.

If there's a weakness to the album, it's not length—thirty-four minutes is a modest but not objectionable running time—it's the repetitiveness that gradually creeps in. The mini-album's penultimate track, “L. Minx,” not only adds little to what we've heard before, it pretty much recycles the strategies already worked out in the earlier “Prize Mischief Hold” and “C.G. Mask” (even if it does take those strategies to a further extreme). Perhaps Porcelain Opera is one of those cases where the full-length would succeed better as an EP.

June 2010