Roman Flügel - Themes

  • The Frankfurt artist's latest LP, though sometimes muddled, contains some of his best ambient work.
  • Share
  • On Themes, Roman Flügel continues to edge the music on his albums away from the club without fully leaving the building. 2011's Fatty Folders and 2014's Happiness Is Happening both featured ambient tracks, but none more than you'd expect on a typical house or techno LP. On 2016's All The Right Noises, Flügel wanted to create a "contrast [to] the weekend business," which he achieved by blending beat-driven and beatless music at a ratio of about 50/50. Themes, which arrives on Lovefingers' ESP Institute label, has just a handful of tracks with kick drums and even less that could be considered playable by club DJs. Still, their presence has an outsized effect. The album feels a little muddled, especially in light of the record's majestic ambient second half. There are 13 numbered tracks titled "Theme," and at "VIII" comes a shift. It's the prettiest track on the album, a patter of gentle synths that could soundtrack a snow globe. From this point, it sounds as though Flügel finished the album in a blur of creativity. We pass by Eastern-influenced melodies, cinematic scenes and surprising but soothing guitar lines. The album finishes with what could be a convincing audition for a film score: "XIII" builds with strings, blooms through a prancing synth line and touches down on a soft bed of piano, an instrument Flügel always handles gracefully. Such is the strength and coherence of these six tracks, it's tough to know what the first half of the record is trying to say, though it's still pretty good in places. "II" does a solid job of interpreting the type of '80s Japanese new age and ambient that's popular these days. "V" and "VI" are quite different, but, through their bold synths and moods, both have some Kraftwerk about them. "VII," the closest thing here to a club track, features a spiky bassline that demands attention. The remainder of the record is either a bit pedestrian ("IV"), too emotionally earnest ("III") or generally forgettable ("I"), but the flaws are more tied up in the album's overall flow. Four-on-the-floor kick patterns have been Flügel's bread and butter during his long career—they just don't seem to have a comfortable place in this project. Flügel was maybe hesitant to fully let go of his past work, but there's plenty here that points towards his possible future, at least in the album format. Themes's blend of acoustic and electronic sound makes for some of the most accomplished ambient tracks he's written.
  • Tracklist
      01. Theme I 02. Theme II 03. Theme III 04. Theme IV 05. Theme V 06. Theme VI 07. Theme VII 08. Theme VIII 09. Theme IX 10. Theme X 11. Theme XI 12. Theme XII 13. Theme XIII