Thomas Fehlmann | Gute Luft

Kompakt (2010)
By MICHAEL BRODEUR  |  March 23, 2010
3.5 3.5 Stars


German maximal-minimalist mainstay Thomas Fehlmann’s first solo album in three years is actually a heavily pared-down 90-minute sampling of the hours and hours of music he produced as part of a commissioned score for the ambitious 24h Berlin TV documentary. But if its soundtrack status has you auto-downgrading your expectations, don’t.

It’s no coincidence that listening to Gute Luft is akin to ambling around an unfamiliar city: Fehlmann frequently retraces his own sonic steps, calling up sounds from across his career, subsequently viewing the same structures from different angles and letting the energy of each piece guide his journey — as if he were a tourist of his own œuvre. Sine waves crest and dissolve like the first rays of day throughout “In the Wind II,” a subtle rumble emerging like strands of early-morning traffic.

“Schwerelos” is a city’s bustle as seen from above, charted out by choice Fehlmann fragments; when the beat kicks in, it’s as if the track were running to catch its train. His ambient mastery is well matched by his dance-floor instinct, and it’s the housier numbers here that give Gute Luft its most documentary moments. “Wasser im Fluss” pumps down a dark street with a snare that clicks like a stiletto, synths that scatter like rats, and languid guitar notes that rise like steam from the pavement. “Permanent Touch” is a rush hour of colors and textures, an insistent snap ticking away like the business day. Even minus its ostensible subject material, Gute Luft surprises as a study of Fehlmann’s evocative imagination — a familiar story told through a breath of fresh air.

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