Roman Flügel: Happiness Is Happening (Dial)
Roman Flügel has a varied repertoire by now, but he’s earned his solid reputation. Regardless of whether he’s pummeling dancefloors with Jörn Wuttke as Alter Ego or throwing down some seriously tight disco grooves (any of his records on Live at Robert Johnson), the quality control is consistently high, and I’m usually pleasantly surprised (or at least rarely bored) by what he brings to the table each time. His latest album for Dial is no exception, harnessing his strengths with a varied set of tracks that often work equally well on headphones or on a good, loud PA.
There is not necessarily a unifying thread on HIH outside of his deft producer’s hand, with sharp contrasts between tracks like the Morr meets Kraftwerk sensibility of “Friendship Song” up against the clattering neo-krautrock of “Connecting the Ghost.” Much like his previous LP Fatty Folders, Flügel is restless and often retools conventions in nuanced and refined ways, often making nods to the techno and house of the present and past as well as 90s braindance and electronica in its clarity of melody and detail. Many of these tracks function equally well melodically and as utility; I find often that you could remove either the rhythm or the melodic arrangement from most of these tracks and they would still be compelling because Flügel has such a good ear for melody and rhythm. Thankfully, he gives us both in abundance, and there’s a lot to like. “Wilkie” has the propulsive drive of classic Moroder anthems in contrast to “Parade” and its bit-crushed update of vintage electro.
When grouped alongside a dreamy, airy number like “Occult Levitation” or the more delicate, swinging stride of “All That Matters,” it’s clear that Flügel is well-versed in the often fragmented but sprawling history of dance music. When he puts his own melodic stamp on these new reflections and iterations, it comes to life beautifully, making Happiness Is Happening as joyous as its title implies.