Roman Flügel is unquestionably a non-conformist. In the 20 years since he started making music in a small Frankfurt studio, he has seemingly avoided trends and fads. Whether this is the sign of a man uninterested in the ebbs and flows of popular mood or the sign of a deliberate and conscious contrarian is difficult to say. Whatever your view, Flügel certainly advocates variety as being the spice of life. From the abrasive electro of Geht’s Noch and the stadium euphoria of Rocker, all the way to the downtempo experimentation of his alias work, Flügel has very nearly done it all. And so when his new Dial-pressed LP, “Happiness Is Happening” landed in our inbox, it was greeted with equal quantities of curiosity and anticipation. (You can stream previews of the album using the player below)
The album begins with Connecting the Ghost, which takes an almost post-rock angle. Waves of blissed-out guitars and flailing synths wash over and almost overwhelm you, only the concluding cadence of soft keys ensuring a soothing aftertaste. The piercingly tight broken beats of Stuffy interplay idiosyncratically but rather enjoyably with its bumbling bassline and occasional textured pads.
After a moderately experimental start, the album’s early-middle phase offers some more accessible dance-floor numbers, with Your War Is Over offering deep moody melodies and Wilkie some layered electro-pop. Parade, however, sets diving and rising arpeggios in direct competition with one another against a backdrop of clattering drums and synth lines that won’t quite sit still. It has a confrontational attitude to it that is almost reminiscent of certain UK grime tracks.
Occult Levitation takes a step away from the album’s prevalent electro influences to usher a deeply hypnotic yet emotive haze of sound over the top of shuffling yet enticing drumwork. The album’s closer, All That Matters, sees lazily echoing raindrops of melody fall in around a complex and dreamlike landscape of chords, chimes and voices.
As you’d expect, it’s an album of some variety. It is primarily machine-driven, but the composition is undeniably complex and there are a variety of colours and emotions to be found here. Some tracks I love, one or two others I could take or leave, but in many ways I think that is the point. Flügel is continuing to push at boundaries on all sides, trying new things wherever he goes. In a world of relentless bandwagon-hopping and half-baked imitation, that’s what we need him to do.