Thomas Fehlmann-“Los Lagos”: Album Review

Thomas Fehlmann was born 1957 in Zürich, Switzerland. At age 22 in 1979, he founded the avant garde band Palais Schaumburg together with Holger Hiller. In the late 80s he teamed up with Dr. Alex Paterson and KLF’s Jimmy Cauty to form the seminal act The Orb. In the 90s he was a resident at the legendary Tresor Berlin. After Palais Shaumberg split in1985, he dedicated himself to his home studio and the sampler, releasing records as Ready Made. In 1988 he founded the Teutonic Beats label, whose compilations featured early contributions from artists like Jörg Burger, Wolfgang Voigt, Moritz von Oswald, Sun Electric and Westbam.

Together with Moritz von Oswald and Juan Atkins he formed 3MB, helping to cement the Berlin-Detroit connection. Since 1995 he has been involved with the Berlin based Ocean Club, which has been broadcasting a radio show since 1998 that now has a worldwide audience, has been responsible for countless remixes and productions for a eclectic selection of artists ranging from Erasure to Einstürzende Neubauten. Fehlmann soon became friends with Dr. Alex Paterson of The Orb and as their friendship grew, Fehlmann was invited to contribute to many Orb releases, becoming a part-time member of the group.

“Los Lagos” marks Thomas Fehlmann’s seventh solo full-length album, and his 4th for Kompakt. This new collection of songs is a a follow up to his Berlin inspired 2010 full-length LP “Gute Luft.” In the Thomas’ own words it’s about “checking the juice.” 

Establishing a picture of his current artistic condition, as suggested by the title Los Lagos/die lage/the situation, it also translates to “the lakes,” but taking the meaning of “wassup” in the context of a relaxed discussion between friends.

The new album refers to Fehlmann’s musical motivation, dreams and wishes through the language of music exclusively—“a way to allow myself to techno” he says, “to techno as a means to deconstruct and rebuild again. Set up an area of tension, loose it in the flow of the grooves. Magnifying some detail out of proportion, regroup around that and slowly knit a texture. Expand. It was time to take a bend and head where the sun rises or sets, wherever my heart drives me.” This is pretty much the kind of decision Thomas Fehlmann has made. 61 and shining, longstanding member of The Orb, multi-talented composer and boundless experimentalist, had to make in the twilight of his collaboration with Alex Paterson, eager to taste the flavours of the unknown on his own again. “It was the moment when flexibility would have become compromise”. Far from being the demise of their joint dream, this was bound to split it in two distinct, parallel fantasies—rich of their own singularity.

“Los Lagos” connects Art, disco, minimalism, jazz and funk. As he likes to say, Fehlmann’s head functions as a sampler, capturing elements and re-assembling them under his own embracing perspective. It becomes quite apparent that he is not afraid to leap from a deep, dubbed-out hypnotism and with one listen to the tracks “Window,” “Morrislouis” and “Freiluft,” you will understand where he is coming from.

Mixing it up with the playfulness of 90s style bleepy schaffel “Tempelhof” featuring Max Loderbauer to the muscle-flexing dancefloor cut of “Triggerism” and the serene calmness presented on “Geworden” shows Fehlmann is in his element. With “Los Lagos,” Fehlmann focused on finding “the structure that’s surprising, disturbing and rewarding” and he has succeeded. The artwork for the record, courtesy of contemporary artist and friend Albert Oehlen whom he shares lots of artistic ambitions with, echoes the producer’s funky use of shape and space, sludge and clarity like a second skin. In need to keep his inner balance in check, Fehlmann committed himself to switch off the control and follow his intuition, which isn’t so much of an easy process as he also wanted to incorporate the side disturbances experienced: “it’s a complex process of search and destroy to bring out a new beauty trying to expand my vocabulary.” With “Los Lagos,” Fehlmann looked at finding the structure that’s surprising, disturbing and rewarding.

A search for light and harmony that Fehlmann sums up eloquently: Does your inner musical voice respond? That is the question. Then doors open up in unexpected corners, rays of light appear; you follow through and you’re in – in your oasis.





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