Switched On – Thomas Fehlmann – Böser Herbst (Kompakt)

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reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

In which Thomas Fehlmann goes back in time once more, drawing on late 1920s Berlin for inspiration – specifically a documentary made by Matthias Luthardt, Herbst 1929, Schatten Über Babylon. This work, as Fehlmann’s press release describes, offers historical insight to the third season of the television series Babylon Berlin.

What it also does is give Fehlmann ample opportunity to prove his versatility as an electronic music artist, and he flexes his creative muscles by using archive sounds from the late 1920s. These fit snugly with his own loops, moods and structures.

What’s the music like?

Intensely calming. On headphones the full perspective of Fehlmann’s working is revealed, while even on a primitive sound system his exquisite harmonic shading goes a long way. Often the ideas are very simple, using the briefest of melodic loops or becoming preoccupied with a single chord or micro-progression.

These are spun into a substantial whole, so that on tracks such as VulkanKarnickel or Umarmt the listener is immersed in a warm bath of ambience. This is both soothing and stimulating, for while Böser Herbst could be used as a relaxation aid it is also a source of positive energy, the elements swirling into a meaningful whole.

Occasionally Fehlmann flexes his muscles a little more, hinting at the psychedelia of The Orb when the workings become mechanised. This happens on Abgestellt and Auf Die Spitze, but serves to heighten the ambient cloak elsewhere.

Does it all work?

Yes, providing you have the right listening environment. A quiet room or a headphone session at either end of the day will set the mood perfectly so that Fehlmann’s workings can be fully appreciated.

Time will often appear to stand still, especially when the likes of Mit Ausblick or .
Überschneidungen are casting spells with their consonant harmonies and thick, woolly ambience, but this has always been part of Fehlmann’s charm, and is precisely why he remains a master of ambient electronic music.

Is it recommended?

It is, for all the reasons outlined above – and because in these stressful times, Böser Herbst offers an all-too rare opportunity for escapism. Put simply, it’s good for the head!

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