Thomas Fehlmann – Lowflow

The end of the holiday season is notorious for making one feel bloated and guilt-ridden. Countless bottles of wine and vodka litter the dumpsters in the complex where I reside, nestled up against dead and tried trees and torn dirtied wreaths. For some odd reason I’ve never taken the time to explore, most music always seems to irritate and grate on my nerves during this time. One of my top-10 albums of the year was Isis’ Panopticon, but I’ll be damned if I’ve been able to handle maybe more than one track of it since a few days before Christmas. Sound becomes too cumbersome, too claustrophobic. I start envisioning the hapless slaying of carolers and anyone possessing the slightest amount of yuletide cheer. Color me “disgruntled postal worker red” if you wish, but the holidays weigh heavily about my cranky soul. Thankfully, there are a few albums that soothe even my Scrooge-infested demeanor. Recently added to this list of acceptable holiday listening (and let me assure you that Mannheim Steamroller or that atrocious Trans-Siberian Orchestra are nowhere NEAR this particular list) is Lowflow, the latest release from Thomas Fehlmann

Let’s preface this by saying that I like to consider myself no stranger to this thing called “electronic” music. I flog myself nightly for allowing Orbital’s Blue Album to escape my memory when it came to working up my personal top 10 releases of the year. Just as important as Orbital in the electronic music scene has been The Orb, whose Adventures Beyond the Underworld is hands-down one of the best ambient albums ever to be released. Fehlmann has been a long-standing contributor to the Orb, so it’s not surprising that he’s able to conjure up some fierce ambient rhythms on his own. However, one should not pick up this album expecting the odd sample and subdued club stylings that The Orb became notorious for. Fehlmann has very much honed his own sound with these solo albums, and Lowflow is no exception. “Goldharr” starts things off with a tasty bass kick and frentic keyboard scratches that conjure up images of a Venetian DJ about to kick off a killer set of tunes live from a space-age bachelor pad. From there, the sound flows “effortlessly” into “Prefab” where the real head music begins. Complete with a crazy horn breakdown and the frogs from New Order’s “Perfect Kiss” after having been possessed by whatever passes for the devil in amphibian hell, “Prefab” is just one of the 13 excellent electronica tracks served up by Fehlmann.

Make no mistake: this is definitely head music akin to the likes of The Orb’s THC-laden sounds or cEVIN Key’s odes to the finest grassbars the more liberal cities have to offer. “Alice Springs” is the sound of the noon lunch rush at The Green House in downtown Amsterdam, while “Andrea is Delighted” is the perfect soundtrack for flying along one of those crazy German highways at insane velocity creating your own private lightshow out of speed.

With Lowflow, Fehlmann has created a really smooth enjoyable ambient album. It’s not as predictably clubby or sample-heavy as The Orb, nor is it as symphonic and progressive as some of the Orbital’s work. Instead Lowflow manages to place itself in a very comfortable limbo between the headfuck craziness of Download’s work and the ecstasy-fueled sound collages of things like Higher Intelligence Agency. So tell the elves to shut the hell up, light a huge roaring fire for whatever might find its way down your chimney, and relax on the couch with your favorite Christmas gift, a glass of potent eggnog, and this album. Have a most excellent new year!