Thomas Fehlmann: Lowflow
Plug Research

Thomas Fehlmann chameleonically shape-shifts his sound to suit different contexts, whether it be The Orb's bong-boosted merrymaking or Kompakt's sleek techno. Now Lowflow adds a fresh Dabryesque wrinkle to Fehlmann's music with Tadd Mullinux collaborating on three cuts (including “Interstellar,” an Alice Coltrane homage). Admittedly, they're brief, almosy fragmentary, yet so potent they seem to push other tracks into similarly lurching, bass-heavy zones (like “Feat,” for example, also distinguished by exotic touches like tablas and stabbing Arabian-tinged squeals). On Lowflow, Fehlmann retreats from the pristine surfaces of club-oriented releases like Visions of Blah in favour of head-nodding voodoo grooves.

The auspicious change is apparent from the outset when Fehlmann weaves choral singing and scattered transmissions into a pulsating, bass-guided mix (“Goldhaar”) and then moves the album into even darker zones (“Prefab”) with a nagging musette motif and alien croaks that drift within the haunted mix. Other standouts include “Slinky” with its distorted, druggy ambiance and the bulldozingly heavy, almost raunchy funk of “Alice Springs.” Less bold pieces (like the bright “Lindt” and galloping “Andrea Is Delighted”) hew to Fehlmann's more familiar Kompakt style and, having been recorded over the last few years, parts of Lowflow will already be familiar to some listeners (“Andrea Is Delighted,” for instance, appears on ~scape's 2003 Staedtizism 4).

Lowflow's tracks typically eschew conventional melody to focus on groove and texture, which might misleadingly suggest that the album's thirteen cuts are little more than well-crafted backing tracks. But any seeming lack of melody is never an issue as the pieces are so rich in textural detail they remain captivating throughout. To a large degree, though, Lowflow impresses most of all when Fehlmann moves away from his customary UK-Cologne styles and opts instead for the more experimental Africa-meets-Detroit fusion.

January 2005