His 7th solo full-length and his 4th for Kompakt, ‘Los Lagos’ finds the German electronic godfather on fabulous form, embracing chance and exploration with vibrant results. A colloquial greeting used between Fehlmann and friends, ‘Los Lagos’ translates literally as ‘The Lakes’ – also alluding to the album’s prevalent air of reconnoitre and striving creatively for a good place.
Attributable to years of experience and honed technique, the 61-year-old grand master can harness a wild grove with ease, riding it on an unknown journey to an unplanned destination. The boundless experimentalist describes this process as “inventing, inverting and changing the emphasis. It’s operating with a lack of borders for an unpredictable outcome.”
This is loose, free-flowing electronic brilliance, where although clearly in charge, he’s more than happy to let the machines control him, in a man-machine interface he calls “allowing myself to techno”.
“To techno is to deconstruct and rebuild again, to set up an area of tension and lose it in the flow of grooves. It’s magnifying a detail out of proportion, or slowly knitting a texture. I wanted to find a structure that’s surprising, disruptive and rewarding, so I switched off the control and followed my intuition. I’m trying to expand my vocabulary and bring out a new beauty. It’s a complex process of search and destroy”, he explains.
The beginning of new adventures and solo reveries came after a juncture. On one of several breaks over the years from collaboration with Alex Paterson as The Orb, Fehlmann was keen to traverse the unknown, dressed sharply in an explorer’s outfit that didn’t cramp his style.
“It was time to take a turn, follow my heart and head where the sun rises, or sets”, he says poetically, adding that “this record epitomizes my current musical motivations, dreams and wishes.”
Fresh, spacious and stylishly produced, tracks roll out with a fluid ease, encompassing funky swung beats, dub techno, cosmic expanse and gauzy lullabies. From the deep, dubbed-out hypnotism of ‘Window’, ‘Morrislouis’ and ‘Freiluft’, the playful bleepy shuffler ‘Tempelhof’, through muscle-flexing pumper ‘Triggerism’ to ambient beauty ‘Geworden’, the results clearly show that this affirmative move for artistic wellbeing was wise.
Artwork for the album’s sleeve – which echoes the musician’s “funky use of shape and space, sludge and clarity” – is by contemporary artist and likeminded friend Albert Oehlen, with additional packaging by The Designers Republic.
Art and design have been important to Fehlmann for a long time. As a student at Hamburg’s Academy of Fine Arts, he studied in the orbit of artistic greats Joseph Beuys and Sigmar Polke.
After a crucial meeting with Conrad Schnitzler at the Academy in 1979, Thomas swapped art for music, joining forces with Holger Hiller to co-found vanguard post-punk band Palais Schaumburg.
Another fellow Schaumburg member was Moritz Von Oswald, and after the band split in 1984, the pair began working under the legendary 3MB moniker, alongside Detroit royalty Juan Atkins, Eddie ‘Flashin’ Fowlkes and Blake Baxter, releasing three albums on Tresor and the evergreen anthem ‘Jazz Is The Teacher’, with Atkins.
Fehlmann also recently instigated another Motor City match-up, this time with Terrence Dixon for the longplayer ‘We Take It From Here’, again on Tresor.
Further important and influential works arose from Fehlmann’s on-and-off 27 year tenure with The Orb, which included a key role in classics ‘Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld’ and ‘U.F.Orb’, plus many more since.
Throughout his career, Fehlmann has sought a sonic and conceptual space – one that here is imagined in the waters of ‘Los Lagos’. On this he shares the following wisdom: “Does your inner musical voice respond? If it does then doors open in unexpected corners. Rays of light appear, so you follow them, to your oasis.”
B2/04: ‘Tempelhof’ (feat. Max Loderbauer)