Veteran German producer Roman Flügel recently made the decision to chop off his signature long hair, a move that, like his recent music, feels consciously adult. Flügel’s new album, Happiness is Happening, is only the second released under his own name over the course of a nearly 20-year career in which he’s mostly released 12-inch singles and frequently worked under aliases like Soylent Green and Eight Miles High. Unlike the jazzy microhouse of 2011′s Fatty Folders, Happiness is closer to the twinkling but heavy melodicism of the Hamburg label Dial (which released both albums), typified by such exemplars as Pantha du Prince’s This Bliss and John Roberts’s Glass Eights.
Still, Flügel’s genius is in the details, and Happiness is Happening is a lushly textured set of 10 tracks that run the gamut from craggy Border Community-style synth workouts (“We Have a Nice Life”) to deep-burn tech house (“Stuffy.”) While he seems more concerned with stylistic emulation than advancement, Flügel finds beauty in his close-up examinations — see the sparkling flourishes that light up “Wilkie,” or the woody percussive flares on “Tense Times.” He also indulges in the kind of dramatic affectations not typically associated with house and minimal techno, particularly on opener “Connecting the Ghost,” where he lets the churning theme peter out into ambient wisps only to return with a wallop after several seconds of complete silence. The meatier aspects serve to make the album’s stalwart attention to detail more impressive (it’s hard to imagine most of today’s producers leaving that ambient section in.)
Then there’s “Parade,” a wry track that represents Flügel’s most conscious bid toward the sharply percussive, diamond-hard futurism often associated with forward-thinking labels like London’s Hyperdub. It’s the album’s thinnest moment, and the only one where the producer doesn’t sound entirely comfortable. Its selection as Happiness‘s first single proves that while Flügel has been just about everywhere, he’s still testing out exactly who he wants to be.