Making her recording debut just two years ago in 2013, Helena’s first release was a three-track EP – Actio Reactio - on Actress’ Werkdiscs imprint. She has since partnered with PAN (as Black Sites alongside F#x), Lux Rec, Bunker sublabel Panzerkreuz and Texan cassette imprint Handmade Birds to share her overtly analogue excursions into techno’s shadowy fringes, improvised and recorded in her bedroom studio in Hamburg.
Fully embracing her love of hardware, Helena joined James Dean Brown’s legendary electronic improv outfit Hypnobeat (founded back in 1983) in 2013, blazing a trail across Europe with their intense polyrhythmic jam sessions on the TB-303, TR-707 and TR-808.
“I have the feeling it’s more one-to-one—you do something and then the machine reacts. The machine has its own mind too, so it gives something back.”
Ten tracks deep, Discreet Desires is the embodiment of Helena’s deep-seated beliefs about music as a radical force and unifying movement. Something that is evident from her growing stature as a selector and her enthusiasm for musical subcultures from punk to nu wave, industrial, krautrock and avant garde electro—all of which were rooted in raw experimentation and existed in polar opposition to the perfect, polished mainstream.
Ahead of the album's September 4 release date on 2LP/CD/Digital, XLR8R spoke with Helena to learn more about the release, while "Spur" can be streamed in full below.
￼01 Tripartite Pact
03 Sworn to Secrecy Part I
04 L'Homme Mort
05 Funereal Morality
06 Piece of Pleasure
08 Sworn to Secrecy Part II
09 Silver Sand & Boxes of Mould
10 Dreams in Colour
As your debut album, it’s fair to say that there is a lot of anticipation surrounding Discreet Desires. Do you feel any pressure?
No! It's done and that's it. I can't change anything about it now anyway and I'm happy with it, so there's no point worrying. Of course I want people to enjoy it and I'm pretty sure some people will, but obviously not everyone—but that's fine.
The album comes just two years after your first material on PAN and Werkdiscs in 2013. Did you actually have an intention to create an album or did it just materialize?
At first I didn't think about making an album but once I had the first couple of tracks ready I kind of like knew that it needed to be a full length.
How long did it take to produce?
It took me about half a year to produce the album. But I didn't work on it on a daily basis—most of the tracks came together in a 2-3 week period.
Did you work in on track by track did you find yourself working on several tracks at the same time?
I never work on several tracks at the same time. I start off with something and take it from there and either finish it or dump it.
You’re known for your love of hardware production. What machines did you use?
I mainly used my 808, 707, Juno 60 and Alpha Juno 2.
There is far more to an album than just shoving 10 tracks together and putting it out. Is there a particular concept or inspiration behind Discreet Desires?
Well, there's this picture that I took several years ago and I wanted to use it as a cover for a record. I had a certain sound in mind that I thought would capture the atmosphere of the picture. I actually didn't end up using it because I found a different one that seemed to fit even better. But working with this photo as a guideline really helped me stay focused.
The track listing is especially important in conceptual albums. Is this something you thought about considerably?
It is important but it seemed pretty obvious to me how they would fit together. I think being a DJ seems to help with that actually.
Is there anything behind the name Discreet Desires?
Yes and no. Firstly it sounded great to me, secondly it means something to me but I can't really explain it.
Discreet Desires is now available for pre-order here