Roman Flügel: Fatty Folders

Though Fatty Folders is his first artist album issued under his real name, Roman Flügel is hardly new to the scene, as electronic music devotees are no doubt aware. The Frankfurt native's been releasing music since 1997 for labels such as Playhouse and Turbo under a number of aliases (Soylent Green and Roman IV among them) and in partnership with Jörn Elling Wuttke as Alter Ego; he also contributed an installment to the Live at Robert Johnson mix series in 2010. Fatty Folders is as polished as one would expect it to be, given that it's issued on Dial, the Hamburg label also known for its association with the music of Lawrence.

Three of the eleven cuts are CD-only tracks (the three first appeared on two Dial twelve-inch releases, 2010's How To Spread Lies and 2011's Brasil), which means that those opting for the double-album version will miss out on one of the best tracks, “How to Spread Lies,” which opens the album with a silky blend of midtempo house swing and melodic elegance. Flügel's melodic gifts are front and center in the tune's captivating hooks—the call-and-response of a high-pitched tinkling figure and synth fragments that nudge ever upwards—and in the soft piano chords sprinkled across its gently thrusting base. “How to Spread Lies” distills all of Flügel's strengths into seven minutes that disappear all too quickly. Similar in tone is “Song with Blue,” another delicate, piano-laden setting that could just as easily pass for a Lawrence track as one by Flügel.

As its title implies, “Krautus” is Flügel paying tribute to the krautrock and kosmische traditions of yore, though of the two it's the latter that's most evident in the synthesizer-heavy track. “Deo” could conceivably be intended as a homage to Deodato but the chiming melody is pure Kraftwerk. That's just one of many ear-catching things about it, however, as the tune's radiant synth smears and extroverted percussive mix of bongos, claps, and drums prove to be just as integral to the tune's appeal. Flügel often extends the percussive detail in his material (e.g., “Softice”) by adding Latin percussion (such as cowbell and bongos), a move that obviously boosts the funkier side of his music. An attempt at representing dance music at its earthiest using digital means, “Bahia Blues Bootcamp” tries hard but can't quite capture the sweat and Dionysian fever the music calls for. Much more convincing is the controlled thunder of “Rude Awakening,” which stokes a raw rave vibe in its tribal pulse. Flügel also allows room for contrast in choosing to end the collection with the becalmed “PianoPiano.”

In some respects, Flügel's music reminds me of John Tejada's, with both producing ultra-polished tracks largely using purely electronic means; both also bring years of experience to their material and consequently draw upon multiple traditions and styles in crafting their wide-ranging productions. Though hardly an elegant title, Fatty Folders nevertheless contains a generous supply of elegant material and provides a consistently satisfying portrait of the creative mind responsible for it.

October 2011