- The former Orb member rediscovers himself on this uneven solo LP.
- Thomas Fehlmann once said he works on solo material at a "snail's pace," but that doesn't fully explain his irregular rate of output over the last few decades. The serial collaborator has long had his hands full making music with others, connecting the Berlin and Detroit techno scenes with Moritz Von Oswald, Juan Atkins and Eddie "Flashin" Fowlkes as 3MB, forming Sun Electric with Max Loderbauer and Tom Thiel in the '90s, or releasing techno with Terrence Dixon on their We Take It From Here LP. His most famous partnership was with Alex Paterson of The Orb, a collaboration that began with 1991's The Orb's Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld.
Fehlmann's first solo album since 2010's Gute Luft marks both his retirement from The Orb and a personal reset. He has described the process of making Los Lagos as "checking the juice": seeing if he's still got what it takes as a solo artist. The word "juice" could also be the latest example of an obsession with liquid that has run throughout his career. Los Lagos translates as "the lakes," and Fehlmann's previous releases include The Flow and Lowflow. 2007's Honigpumpe referred to a Joseph Beuys art installation in which honey was pumped through a museum. Gute Luft contained a track called "Wasser Im Fluss." Others such as "With Oil" and "I Wanna Be A Fishy" have surfaced elsewhere.
It's easy to see why Fehlmann is attracted to such concepts. His techno often brings to mind fluid states, and Los Lagos draws similar ideas from earlier records. The glitchy dub techno of the first three tracks are typical of the style he pursued on Honigpumpe but lack that album's melodic sensibility. "Tempelhof," a collaboration with Max Loderbauer, uses the sort of schaffel beat found on 2002's Visions Of Blah. Unfortunately, the track's high-pitched squeaks make it borderline annoying. Los Lagos has a much narrower focus than Gute Luft, zooming in on microscopic details rather than replicating its predecessor's emotional and sonic sweep.
Things begin to open up halfway through. "Freiluft"'s deep pulse gives it an unusually spacious groove. "Triggerism"'s undulating bass, propulsive beat and synth riff have an urgency absent from most of Los Lagos. The final two tracks seem to sink into the watery embrace of the album's title. "Neverevernever" is downtempo dub gently caressed by a blissed-out guitar loop. The meditative ambient finale, "Geworden," seems to be contemplating the stars in the firmament. On tracks like these, Los Lagos succeeds in putting distance between Fehlmann and The Orb, even if the LP as a whole falls short of his best work.
04. Tempelhof feat. Max Loderbauer