Thomas Fehlmann

Lowflow

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During the period that bridged 2002's Visions of Blah to 2004's Lowflow, Thomas Fehlmann left no dates open for stargazing. He toured on a handful of continents, remained active with Gudrun Gut's Oceanclub collective (while having a hand in a pair of Oceanclub releases), contributed too little to an otherwise hapless Orb album, scattered productions on an array of various-artist discs, and graced the Kompakt label with another solid, varied 12". The difference between this album for Plug Research and Visions of Blah could've only been forecasted by those paying strict attention to Fehlmann's career. Between 1999 and 2003, the producer dropped at least five hints. Three tracks on Scape compilations, one on a Plug Research release, and another as part of the Kreisel 99 series pointed toward deeper flirtations with hip-hop and dub. Those five tracks, incorporated into eight new ones to form Lowflow, show that he's no mere dabbler. Away from the four-four, the grinding shuffle, and mind-warping ambient that he has worked with throughout the past several years, Fehlmann seems more freed than handcuffed, supplying a surplus of meticulously crafted beats -- at one moment pavement cracking and then as aqueous as he's ever been -- and textures -- at one moment looming and menacing and then speckled with glints of light -- that fit just about any nonaggressive mood. One of the more remarkable facets of the album is that, even with its range from spaced-out, alternately prickly and thumping dub to vaguely Eastern-sounding breakbeat abstractions, it keeps a keenly stitched-together sequence. Three wildcard interludes co-produced with Dabrye are equally important cogs. Wherever you choose to slot this album (instrumental hip-hop, ambient breakbeat, experimental techno), it'll fall somewhere near the top of the class for its year of release. Had this been up for grabs eight years ago, Mo' Wax's James Lavelle would've likely done something very desperate to release it on his label.

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