- Thomas Fehlmann is a bit of an alchemist among techno artists, intent on transforming noughts and ones into the aural equivalent of liquid gold. Drowning his tracks in the wetter elements of dub, Fehlmann leaves his beats to fight to the surface, battling thick and heavy swathes of processing. Fehlmann has a long history to him, too. He was a founding member of legendary post-punk/tech-poppers Palais Schaumburg alongside Basic Channel's Moritz von Oswald, with whom he later formed 3MB with Juan Atkins in the nineties, before picking up with the Orb and finding his present home at Kompakt.
Dedicated to Joseph Beuys' 1977 installation ‘Honigpumpe Am Arbeitsplatz’ ('Honey Pump in the Workplace'), in which the equally material-obsessed artist pumped honey through a museum, ‘’Honigpumpe’ ('Honey Pump') is as treacly as Fehlmann has sounded yet. Like the matter-state of honey, Fehlmann's tracks can't decide whether to hang and bang like techno-solids or drip and flow like ambient-liquid. In the tradition of Gas, Markus Guentner and Triola, much of Honig Pumpe is powered by a cushioned 4/4 thud, but unlike their fixations on gaseous clouds, Fehlmann's work is denser, viscous, more ambivalent: like dancing in quicksand.
Nonetheless, Fehlmann's mud is frequently a joy to be mired in. 'Schaum' begins all swirling and washed out, with rich, drifting pads giving way to gravelly dub stabs, while 'Arbeitstitel' sends its mid-range around a spin dryer. There are updates on previous singles: 'T.R.N.T.T.F' morphs a pop ambient tune with skanking highway shuffler 'The Road', replacing the grease and grit with shadowy blur; 'Little Big Horn (Liegend)' meanwhile reconfigures the original into a jaunty blend of Krautrock drive and disco-funk swagger. 'Bienenkönigin' finds him at his most buoyant, where a pogoing ska pulse battles elastic tones and dripping arpeggios, ricochets matched by Fehlmann's bopping, gangly frame when played out live. At the other end is ambient closer 'With Oil' (taken from Pop Ambient 2005), whose sinuous threads reflect glistening rainbows of light, like the leftovers of a tanker spill.
But these extremes are not extreme enough, leaving 'Honig Pumpe' sounding somewhat monochromatic. This generally works to Fehlmann's advantage, as Honig Pumpe is more a coherent album than a set of same-y pieces. With most tracks stuffed to bursting with competing sounds streams - drones, pads, shakers, bells - all smeared into formlessness, things can get a little sickly, but Fehlmann's production is sufficiently rich as to be worth the queasiness.
2 Soziale Wärme
5 Little Big Horn (Liegend)
8 100 Bäume
10 Atlas (Part 2)
11 Dusted With Powder
12 With Oil