Album Review: Scott Hardware 'Engel'

April 28, 2021

After returning from the techno sanctuary of Berlin, Scott Hardware watched the 1987 German film Wings of Desire. The movie was widely impactful. Three years later, Hardware has returned with his second full-length, Engel, in which he alludes to expressing themes of shame, grief and queerness. Engel is a step away from the catchy club beats that categorized Mutate Repeat Infinity while continuing to speak on the impact of the AIDS crisis. (The Engel album art is rather graphic; it can be seen here.)

First single "Joy" features a crescendo of screams that burst into a transcendent piano tune. In this, Hardware probes at himself for feelings of joy. The piano and strings add a theatrical element that transcends high and low culture. Meanwhile, "Intro" captivates the listener with a heavenly yet explosive delivery of noise. A plane glides, referencing the return home, followed by distinctive chords ringing in your ears between a crashing and a crackling phone line.

Engel weaves together lugubrious singer-songwriter melodies with mystic dance-pop and vaporwave. The ghostly voices act as characters looking in as Hardware finds meaning in grief; he uses cinematic artistry to reflect on personal experience in songwriting and composure — exquisitely arranging genre elements for a cohesive yet experimental dance-pop album. (Telephone Explosion)

Originally published in Exclaim. Read the online version here.