Published by Alessandro Violante on February 18, 2018
Terrorism, politics, a critique of techno industrial (the concept behind Anti/Techno), a way of thinking close to that of Bertolt Brecht, a passion for new media art (the Dutch-based V2 Organisation). This to say that Patrick Stevens / Hypnoskull music is more complex and faceted than one would think of. Don’t call it simply rhythmic noise or technoïd, as defined in his recent interview, because it’s something more.
Let’s think about his new album released by Ant-Zen., Die4.generation, celebrating the 25th birthday of his main project. The fourth generation Stevens talks about (Die vierte Generation) is represented by radical thinkers, philosophers and artists who predict and practice free thinking, who discuss about everything. Theirs is a reaction to the cruel story of the left wing terrorist group Rote Armee Fraktion (RAF), active from 1970 until 1998. Andreas Baader, Gudrun Ensslin, Horst Mahler and Ulrike Meinhof founded the group in 1970, killing 34 people along its story.
Stevens was born in 1973, in Belgium, but he had first-hand experience of German social turmoil, although he was only three years old he remembers what happened during those years. It was the period between the so-called “first generation” of the terrorist group, founded in 1970, and the “second generation”, active since 1975 and then there were the “third generation” started in 1982, and the aforementioned “fourth generation”, which started immediately after 1998. That of Stevens is a utopian new generation using thoughts in order to oppose ideologies. The artwork tells four imaginary stories told by women, as a great part of the terrorist group was composed by women.
Listen to Über Die Brutalität, and you’ll feel like you were living in Western Germany during those years. An obsessive technoid rhythm embellished by a sample, maybe coming from a political rally or a news broadcast, brings us back to a different context. After the first five songs, we are left with no doubts about what we’re listening to: the artist is Hypnoskull, we’re in Germany, and the sound is 100% Ant-Zen.
That’s what we want to listen in his albums, his imprint, his typical trademarks. Die4.generation takes a cleary techno-oriented path, recalling the roots of the project and the manifest of the idea of Anti/Techno theorized by the artist. The albums starts where the previous Immer Wieder Nein ended, but unlike it we haven’t here rhythmic noise episodes, except for one. Songs such as Alles schwarz and Phantomschmerz anticipated the come back to the straight 4/4 sound, but that album was quite different for it’s topic too, displaying in its cover artwork the boxer Paul Samson Körner around which the album focused, friend of the aforementioned Bertolt Brecht.
Also that of Anti/Techno is a “new generation”. D. Carbone, Federico Amoroso, New Frames (among theme there’s The Panacea), Elisabeth Marta Hilgenberg, etc… are a new generation of artists making “techno industrial” music, whereas the “older generation” was represented by projects such as P-A-L, Imminent Starvation, Noisex, ecc… the most of them keeping releasing music today.
What Hypnoskull wants to say with the concept of Anti/Techno is that setting up a techno rhythm and adding some industrial-derived sounds on it, such as in a cut + paste procedure, doesn’t make your music “techno industrial”. It’s not important that the listener or critique agree with this declaration, as Hypnoskull music is a “global anti-music conspiracy”. This idea is even better expressed in the mix recently made for this website, available here.
According to Patrick Stevens, techno isn’t only some kind of subversive attitude, as well as V2 Organisation was subversive in contemporary art world and Brecht was a subversive thinker, but it’s a modus operandi, an approach that, as stated by himself, can be found in its last three albums, the roots of the project, techno music.
The fifteen songs included in Die4.generation are fragments of a wider vision expressing at its best in the live dimension, although each song has it’s own life and meaning even when separated from the other. The aforementioned mix is a good example of what we’re talking about: two drum machines, two samplers, and few more. That’s the case of this mix. That’s enough to make something convincing and good.
What said above doesn’t mean that, in order to appreciate Die4.generation, you should be a sociologist, you should know German politics, or know RAF history (although knowing the history of a foreign country can be quite interesting to better understand the background of what you’re listening to) or know the whole Ant-Zen catalogue. Of course, you can simply enjoy what you’re listening to and dance to it.
What makes great an album is also how it can be experienced in different ways, according to who is listening to it. Anyway, Die4.generation best songs are put at the beginning: the title track is a techno song maybe sampling a tv news broadcast, recalling what he did in his early years with KK Records (Patrick Stevens released music with the historic Belgian label), while the emblematic All ideologies must / will die is probably the most syncopated, violent and engaging song of the lot. A storm of tribal-like rhythms is launched in front of the listener, there’s no space for any kind of embellishment.
Aphorism on a useless death recalls once again RAF story, but it has a more relaxed rhythm, it is dirtier and more atmospheric (a suffocating and grey atmosphere). What follows is a more techno-oriented number called Initialising procedure (taken from rehearsals of Ffwd>Burnout!, an album that will be shortly re-released in a “redux” version by Italian Repitch records). Harsh sounds, noise (n.o.i.z.e.), distortions, analogic sounds, straight rhythms, stopped by a small parenthesis.
What should we say more about this album? Listen to it, take some time to discover what Hypnoskull is talking about. His music is quite immediate, but its message requires your time in order to be understood. Hypnoskull has always expressed more than music in its albums, since his early years. The listener should know this when he approaches his music. That’s up to you. Put it at maximum volume.
Rating: 9, 5