This is apparently B. Fleischmann's eleventh solo album, which surprised me a bit, as I generally enjoy his work yet have only heard a small fraction of it. That said, the eclectic and shapeshifting Austrian composer's release schedule has slowed considerably since the heyday of IDM/indietronica/glitch pop in the late '90s/early 2000s that put him on the map. In fact, it has been four years since Fleischmann last surfaced with the amusingly titled but hopefully not prophetic Stop Making Fans and Music for Shared Rooms is actually more of a retrospective than a formal new statement. That said, most fans (myself included) are unlikely to have previously encountered any of the sixteen pieces collected here, as the album is a look back at some highlights from Fleischmann's extensive archive of pieces composed for film and theater. That archive apparently includes roughly 600 pieces composed over a stretch of twelve years, so Fleischmann presumably did not have much trouble coming up with a double LP worth of delights. To his credit, however, he decided to rework and recontextualize the selected pieces into a satisfying and thoughtfully constructed whole (and one that also doubles as a "kaleidoscopic glimpse of a forward-thinking musician at home in many different musical worlds"). Admittedly, some of those musical worlds appeal more to me than others, but Fleischmann almost always brings a strong pop sensibility and bittersweet warmth to the table, so the results are invariably wonderful when he hits the mark (which he does with impressive frequency here).
The title Music for Shared Rooms alludes to Fleischmann's vision for this album, as he views his recontextualized scores as something akin to "a photo album" in which each "page" conjures a "different scene in which you can immerse yourself." To his credit, the fundamentally "B. Fleischmann" feel of the pieces remains surprisingly constant despite their myriad moods and disparate original contexts, but nailing down the character of that aesthetic is an elusive task. In a rough sense, however, it is fair to say that Fleischmann achieves a unique blend of "seemingly naive" pop simplicity with exacting production and complex arrangements. Sometimes he admittedly leans a bit too much to the "willfully naive" side for my liking, but his instincts generally tend to be quite solid (if sometimes perplexing). Case in point: "Taxi Driver" opens as some kind of Mission Impossible/Peter Gunn theme hybrid, but unexpectedly transforms into a killer dubby groove that calls to mind prime Tortoise.
Elsewhere, Fleischmann sneakily transforms a tender piano reverie into a bittersweet trip-hop groove and a psychotropic squall of shortwave radio-style electronic cacophony in "Entwurf einer Ballade", while "Flüchtlingswalzer" turns a wonky carnivalesque waltz into a dramatic and dizzying crescendo of driving drums and swirling orchestral loops. To my ears, his neatest trick of all is probably "Der Lärmkrieg," which borrows a page from Beethoven's "Für Elise" and turns it into something that sounds like a sentient and lovesick old-timey player piano with some deep regrets. I am also quite fond of the spacey synth melancholy of "Im Atelier" and the stomping, "air raid" psychedelia of "Red Pill," but just about everything on the album boasts enough twists and hooks to hold my attention. Those endless twists and turns are also the album's biggest caveat, as not many pieces stick to a single theme for their duration, which can be a bit exasperating if I love a certain passage. Of course, the flipside is that the passages I am less enthusiastic about almost invariably transform into something cool if I stick around long enough and all of those eclectic and surprising detours add up to an endearingly charming, playful, and imaginative hall of mirrors.