Tin Man (aka Johannes Auvinen), is an American electronic musician based in Vienna. His most recent album, Ode (Absurd Recordings), is an entrancing and noirish interpretation of acid. Tin Man’s speculative musical biography of Roman Flügel attempts to look deeper into the artist’s current cross-genre impulses. What role does Flügel’s pioneering status as a label chief, DJ, and producer play in his aesthetic decisions?
First and foremost, the new Roman Flügel album is fun and sweet. It ties together many threads—that is, genres, musical histories, emotions, and, I am guessing, personal stories. The record is obviously contemporary, and you’ll hear DJs play it out soon enough, but it is also track-by-track history lesson. Probably the first thing that will strike listeners is how the musical moments referenced here announce themselves so distinctly. One track screams krautrock, the next kosmische, then Depeche Mode, slow-motion afterparty house, and ultimately a sweet IDM track that surely will be used in an advertisement. If you make a point of covering so much ground on an album, there is a reason. Here is where I start to speculate why. I can imagine it is a confluence of his history as a producer and the history of music that he has been surrounded and inspired by. So, here I present to you a mostly speculative biography of Roman Flügel:
Roman Flügel went to some parties in Frankfurt. The music and the scene was wild. There, he encountered there battering, frenetic techno, a mixture of pitched-up techno trance and acid. He got the bug to produce some tracks. In contrast to the frenetic energy he experienced at the parties, he decided to explore a more ambient loved-up vibe and something more personal. He quickly realized that he also wanted some of that energy he experienced in the clubs. From that day onwards, he has been trying to reconcile the two side of this spectrum by pulling from different genres, different histories, and different emotions. He has corralled them into something novel. Coincidentally, along the way, he has had a major impact on the developments of various scenes through his output, DJing, and his label work—actually, I say that as an understatement. Roman Flügel is an essential artist to consider when reviewing the Frankfurt scene and its impact over the last twenty years. You could even say he helped develop a genre of house music that incorporates aspects of techno. I wonder what that could be called? A young audience will grab onto his current project easily and be left all the richer when they start looking into his catalog.
I suspect a busy touring schedule gives an artist a certain sense of what makes a functional track and also what makes a track fun for the floor. But listening to this record, it sounds even more like he’s reaching into all his personal music interests and connecting them back to his dance music repertoire. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suppose that he took the album as an opportunity to make something personal. I remember once reading that LFO’s first album was originally constructed as a mix-tape to be given to a friend—a love letter, pure and simple. To a degree, DJs are prone to connect with such gestures also. I would venture to say that this album could be such a gesture: “Here is how I feel, which happens to be the music I like.” The historical references don’t feel didactic, but rather celebratory. It’s also fun to see how so many different reference points connect now. This personal approach makes all the more sense because of its release on the visionary label Dial, which was always a great proponent of touching dance music.
I am a fan of neorealist fiction. In the genre, authors will often use a title that will appear in a slyly offhand manner in the story. It can be a small detail that causes an irritation when read, sticking together or contrasting parallel narratives, or revealing a mundane fact swimming in the overwhelming sea of absurdity—subtitled everyday life. When I say the new Roman Flügel album is fun and sweet, it is not that I want to glue together, tear apart, or pick out any factual thread of all the references the record ties in. Rather, it is fun and sweet. ~
Roman Flügel’s album Happiness Is Happening was released this fall on Dial Records.