With a musical career that spans over twenty five years, Swiss composer and sound pioneer Thomas Fehlmann has truly earned his status as one of electronic music’s godfathers. From his time in electro-pop band Palais Schaumburg, to collaborations with Juan Atkins and Mortiz Von Oswald and legendary productions as one half of the Orb, the 61 year old has continuously sought to find a sonic and conceptual space.
This quest is more apparent than ever before in his latest release and 7th solo full length, Los Lagos. Released via Kompakt, the album finds Fehlmann letting his machines control him in a man-machine interface he calls “allowing myself to techno”. Made up of 8 spaced out ambient-dub-techno rollers, the album’s loose, free-flowing electronic brilliance marks a new adventure for Fehlmann, with him stating that the full length “epitomizes my current musical motivations, dreams and wishes.”
Catching up with the Berlin-based musician, he breaks down the LP track by track, discussing inspirations, realizations, thought processes and obstacles. See below.
Whilst working on Los Lagos I went back to work with my first ever synthesizer – a Korg MS20 from the late ’70s- that still sits in the middle of my studio and continues to amaze me. As soon as I get a certain twitch in my legs I know I shouldn’t do much more to the track in order to keep its original spirit and swing. This can end up in quite a confrontation between Mr.dare and Mr.polish wanting to duel each other. For better or worse I decided to give Mr.polish less attention this time and rather follow Mr.dare’s ideas of fragmented funkadelia.
Started as a Jazzy loop and transformed into an epic view out of a window over wide fields vanishing in the fog on the horizon. Or alternatively a broken cityscape with a few funky colours bursting out of bricks and concrete. A regular task while making a tune is keeping the fingers away from the keyboard finding melodic figures that build themselves by chance out of various rhythmic fragments, cut up sequences and their FX patterns instead.
Took its inspiration from a pic I saw on Mr.tamborello’s instagram page on a Sunday afternoon. Morris Louis is this painter that used to empty buckets of colours on his Canvas whilst they lie on the floor and slowly erecting them to have the colours flowing down and into each other. I wanted to translate this process into music but as it often goes must have forgotten about the first intentions whilst working at it. Doesn’t matter, the most important thing was to get a good starting point to get me going and the memory is nice 😉
4. Tempelhof feat. Max Loderbauer
Sitting in with Max in his studio, he allowed me to follow his noodlings and say stop when ever I thought he produced a sound or a pattern we could work with. I didn’t tell him what to do and he let me puzzle together the subsequent recordings in whatever way that would entertain me. It was like working with a living synthesizer that reacts to looks and movements. pure fun.
Has this certain kraut touch to me. Little riffs and melodies that start to pop out of a tight net of sequences and keep surprising and overtaking each other with accidental twists and turns on the ride. This is another one where Mr.polish had to be kept in check. Tracks are never really finished for me. they reach certain stages. They continue to evolve when played live and get a regular work over with each gig.
Was the first track for the album and logically the first one I wanted to revisit for a rework after it was all finished. One working resolution for Los Lagos was to develop a distinctive character for each track and then let go and not overworking them. This tune was also the blueprint of the concept to create sequences with the old Korg system pretty much out of the blue – like, la, la, la I don’t care about the tuning and the tempo – sampling/recording and take them apart to find new connections. Building new structures out of fragments and gaps.
Finally I was able to finish off this track from the shelf that has been waiting for a while for its ideal form to shimmer away with it’s few more or less hidden tributes and quotes. i enjoy charging my tunes with dedications that don’t want to be exlained necessarily but remind me who i am, serve as pointers to my roots and last but not least to refresh my formative artistic concept of the ‘ready made’.
It’s ambient with a wiggle. stretching the plateaus and spaces to build arches, bows and bridges. shifting the beautyspots in circles and follow the emerging lines. searching for a pulse in the air to give the flow a direction. creating an ambience is often like trying to switch off time but i do like to tap at least my smal toe to it. (hello huerco S)
Los Lagos is out now on Kompakt.
Buy it here.
Featured Image: Max Zerrahn