Although they've never exactly had a "down" year, I would have to place 2007 as one of the best years ever in terms of quality releases for the Kompakt label. They dropped the excellent debut from Gui Boratto (Chromophobia), the even-better debut release from The Field (From Here We Go Sublime) and the upcoming Total 8 compilation looks like the typically-solid release of usual. Along the way, the label put out the newest album from longtime Orb member Thomas Fehlmann and damned if it isn't his best solo release to date.
Unlike a lot of other artists on the label working in similar spaces, one of the great things about Fehlmann is that he really truly has evolved his sound at least a little bit with each release now. Even his early work (like One To Three and Good Fridge) was distinguished enough to separate it from his work with The Orb, and over time he's toyed with all kinds of sounds, including the more rhythmic Lowflow album. The key adjective this time around might very well be "warm," because this twelve track release is both super-smooth and completely enveloping, a lush sixty-six minute trip through a luscious headspace that flows like a dream.
With a deep thud and multiple layers of hazy textures, the album wastes no time in getting going, but the first track is really just a stage-setter for the stunning "Soziale Wärme," another heady piece that again rolls a thick kick under some of the most gorgeous breathy washes this side of Gas's Konigsforst. Following it is "Atlas," and here Fehlmann gets completely low-slung, dropping a nearly sub-sonic bassline under more layered clouds of drifting melody.
Between one-third and one-half of the way into the release it picks up significantly in pace, and clears away just a touch of the slightly more heady sounds. Even though he ramps things up, there's nary a mis-step in the bunch, with only the slightly more squelchy melodies of "Bienekönigin" making it feel a bit out of place. Those moments are completely blown away by more than stunning tracks like "100 Bäume" and "Arbeitstitel," with the former taking on a sort of minimal house cosmic kraut feel that shoots it directly into serious trip-out land. Even the album closer "With Oil" manages to push into majestic spaces without a single beat.
In terms of electronic musicians, it's hard to find someone who's sort of an equal for Fehlmann. Nearly twenty years on, he's still making music that's completely keeping up with his peers, even when some of them were still chewing pacifiers around the time he was putting out his first releases. Sure, guys like Eno (and even Czukay) are still certainly relevant, but I've got to give props to Fehlmann. He's not only keeping up with the kids, but in some cases he's running circles around them.