The last time Heiko Laux released an album on Kanzleramt (the techno label he founded in 1994) was 2006, but appearances on labels such as Truesoul, Figure, Soma, Rejected, Suol, Uturn, and Ovum clearly show that he's been anything but idle in the interim. Laux now celebrates the twentieth anniversary of Kanzleramt with his fifth solo album, a polished, eight-track collection of new material titled Fernweh. The term, a German word that stands for wanderlust, is a fitting choice given the adventurous spirit of Laux's new material. Interestingly, a simulated kookaburra trill often surfaces within the tracks—a significant detail for this recording as the bird's migratory nature aligns with that of an individual driven by wanderlust.
It takes a few minutes for “Brace” to settle itself, but once the bass line and drums lock into place, the material starts grooving with a lazer-like focus and precision. While hardly the set's punchiest track, the opener nevertheless establishes the modern, synthesizer-heavy soundworld that will remain in place throughout the hour-long recording. In marked contrast, “Hexagon” leaps from the gate with a pounding pulse that Laux then builds upon with chunky house chords and off-beat hi-hats. And while the track is clearly designed with the dance floor in mind, it also presents a strong argument for Laux as a sound designer when near-subliminal synthesizer swirls, tucked behind the pounding groove, add a sophisticated touch to the material. The epic title track swings as mightily, with in this case Laux bolstering its syncopated thrust with eerie, high-pitched strings and nightmarish synth swarms, while “Rowing” works itself up to a percolating broil gradually, the lonely whistle of the kookaburra audible alongside the ever-rising percussive tide.
Laux's tracks are sleek, high-quality productions that seamlessly blend Berlin and Detroit techno, but what elevates his material even more are the artful details he threads into every cut. While a track such as “Neutron,” for instance, is certainly powerful on rhythmic terms, it's ultimately more memorable for things like the the wobbly synth figure that flutters across its claps and flares, and the two-minute interlude “Shimmer” likewise catches the ear with its gleaming synthesizer palpitations and imaginative percussive interplay. In simplest terms, Fernweh succeeds as both a club-ready set and as a pure listening experience.