Thomas Fehlmann - Biography
Thomas Fehlmann is one of European techno’s central figures. Stemming from a wide-ranging and extremely active career that dates back to the early 1980s, Fehlmann’s discography shows that the producer is more than capable in many different musical settings. Starting off in post-punk bands and moving through the birth of ambient techno on to his current status as one of progressive dance music’s elder statesmen, Fehlmann’s massive contribution to modern electronic music cannot be overstated.
Born in Zurich in 1957, Fehlmann soon moved to the German port city of Hamburg. Active in the music scene there, he founded the electronically enhanced art-rock group Palais Schaumburg with Holger Hiller in 1979. Recording throughout the early ‘80s the group was part of the Neue Deutsche Welle, a short-lived strain of German new wave and post-punk that placed emphasis on synthesizers and various electronic production elements. Now seen as an influential precursor to today’s dance-punk and electroclash styles, Fehlmann’s work in Palais Schaumburg hints at the complex electronic music he would soon be making.
After the demise of Palais Schaumburg in 1985, Fehlmann concentrated on his home studio in Berlin. Focusing on a style that blends elements of electro funk, abstract ambient sounds and techno, he released work under the Ready Made alias. In 1988 he founded the seminal Teutonic Beats label. Featuring a who’s who of German techno, the label released early work by current masters of European dance music like Jorg Burger, Basic Channel’s Moritz Von Oswald, Wolfgang Voigt and Fehlmann’s own Sun Electric. Through his activities during this time, Fehlmann became friendly with Alex Paterson of legendary ambient techno pioneers The Orb. Fehlmann would go on to contribute to several of The Orb’s best records. His contributions to seminal albums like The Orb’s Adventures Beyond The Ultraworld, U.F.Orb and Orbus Terrarum served to cement Fehlmann’s status as a true electronic innovator during the early ‘90s.
During the ‘90s Fehlmann maintained a seriously active schedule. In addition to his part-time member status with The Orb (arguably one of the most globally popular techno acts during the early ‘90s) he served as producer to such bands as Erasure and worked with fellow electronic musicians. He formed the seminal group 3MB with Moritz Von Oswald and legendary Detroit techno pioneer Juan Atkins. This group furthered the alliance between the Detroit originators and the Berlin innovators that exists to this day. Fehlmann also found time to hold DJ residencies at the peerless Tresor club as well as Ocean Club. Notable solo releases in the ‘90s include Good Fridge (Flowing: Ninezeronineight) and the stunning One To Three. Overflow; Ninenine/nd.
The 2000's has arguably been the most fertile period of time for Fehlmann’s music, especially his solo work. Recording almost exclusively for the Kompakt imprint, Wolfgang Voigt’s mighty techno empire has released some of Fehlmann’s most engaging solo albums. 2002’s Visions Of Blah endures as a beautiful synthesis of house, minimal techno and deep ambient styles and boasts some of the producer’s most sublime melodic work. 2004’s Lowflow, recorded for the American Plug Research label, features some slower, dub inspired tracks as well as tight electro. Perhaps his best record, 2008’s Kompakt release Honigpumpe combines Fehlmann’s best tendencies for some truly hypnotic minimal house and techno. The production is super deep, showcasing lush ambient textures, slick beats and complex track structures. It's one of Kompakt’s finest recent releases and stands as the crowning solo release in Fehlmann’s body of work.
This same period saw Fehlmann contribute to some of The Orb’s best work in over a decade. 2003’s Bicycles & Tricycles and particularly 2005’s Okie Dokie It’s The Orb On Kompakt are steered by Fehlmann’s hand. Weaving in narcotic dub grooves, crisp beats and thick, swirling atmosphere these records marked a resurgence in quality for The Orb.
Through a tireless work ethic and a keen ear for progressive sounds, Thomas Fehlmann has made an indelible mark on modern electronic music and techno in particular. Three decades into his career this pioneering producer continues to release unique and enthralling tracks. Recent releases continue to explore his dub influenced minimal style and his ongoing contributions to Kompakt’s long-running Pop Ambient series secure his status as one of ambient music’s steady innovators. Seemingly not content to rest on his already commendable discography, Fehlmann’s work continues to set the standard for quality and invention in electronic music.