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Thomas Fehlmann returns to the sediment of ages, drawing from a similar lexicon of sounds to that used on 2018’s ‘1929 – Das Jahr Babylon’. Like that album, Böser Herbst was produced as the soundtrack to a documentary made by Volker Heise, ‘Herbst 1929, Schatten Über Babylon’, which offers historical insight to the third season of the TV series 'Babylon Berlin'. It adds yet another string to the bow of this most forward-thinking and creative artist, whose history takes in NDW (Palais Schaumburg), techno (3MB) and psychedelic ambience (The Orb), plus a clutch of gorgeous solo albums that explore wide terrain, from the dancefloor through supine home listening to compelling soundtrack work.
Fehlmann’s approach here was to ‘capture’ samples of contemporaneous music, “picking up the dirt and dust of original 1920s archive sound and music excerpts and shaping the essence into this selection of tunes,” he recalls. After delivering the material to the editing room, Fehlmann “threw all the pieces up in the air, deliberately lost the overview in consequence, researched the atmospheric thread and assembled it for this album.” That explains the singular nature of the material here, and its ability to sit together so neatly and discretely, as its own entity. For Böser Herbst is a music box of possibilities, shadowed by its historical provenance, but never crudely beholden to it, rather “keeping the references only as a distant nod, a scent.”
It’s certainly an evocative listen, a cornucopia of textural pleasure and sensual, tactile assemblage. The spiralling, psychedelic cycle of “Karnickel” winds its way between the ears like thread to the needle; “Mit Ausblick” immerses the listener in deep, gaseous tones, only to be lifted into the air by the glassy drones of “Umarmt”. “Wunschwechsler” crackles with the unpredictability of weather systems while a guitar-like loop unspools across the horizon. Throughout, you can catch tiny tastes of the source material, but they’re pressed into greater service, Fehlmann using these sources for their evocative capacity and then saturating them with grain and rumble, abstracting outwards. It’s a music of temporal disjuncture and clairvoyant resonance, “speaking with the past – alert, distant and quixotic.”