For one or other reason the music year almost always starts slow for me. The albums I find interesting mostly start releasing from early spring on. That does not mean there is nothing brought out at the moment that matches my standards. Luckily Nils Frahm released his seventh solo album, All Melody, last month and it’s full of signature compositions that serve as an excellent backdrop to those first grey weeks of the year.
As you might know the German born Nils Frahm is a household name in the world of contemporary classic. Frahm is mostly famed for combining classic and electronic music. He mixes traditional piano with synthesizers and also plays on piano’s that are custom built for him. In the past decade or so he collaborated with other notable figures in the scene like Ólafur Arnalds and F. S. Blumm but also composes scores for art house movies and on top of that also was featured in the Assassin’s Creed Unity video game.
During the last 2 years of his career Frahm built is own studio, Funkhaus, in East Germany and created his own pipe organ which deep tones are dominant on All Mellody. In contrast to his last major work, Solo (2015), Frahm this time makes use of vocals. A choir, Shards, opens the album with some pretty yet gloomy ooh”-ing. ‘The Whole Universe Want to Be Touched’ is the first of 12 tracks that sets off quiet stroll through Frahm’s Funkhaus. All Melody can be base oriented at one moment while a rack later melodic piano sketches of lengthy ambient synths take over.
With almost careless effort tracks are layered in and over each other. Shifting panels of compositions pass by on for example ‘ A Place’ where spacious chorals take the forefront while on ‘Forever Changeless’, ‘ My Friend the Forest’ an impressionistic jazzy piano sketch is put in the centre. The pipe organ is nicely heard on ‘Momentum’ and the more uptempo ‘Kaleidoscope’ which resembles ‘Mœbius’ of Kurt Stenzel’s score to Jodorowsky’s Dune (2015). In a way Frahm still builds on his classical roots while interacting with various sorts of piano’s and synths. All Melody is however more electronic than his earlier work. Especially on the longer repetitive tracks like ‘Sunson’, ‘#2’ and the title track the boundaries are vague. The pipe organ is deeply integrated in some hypnotic minimal techno. To me these tracks are essential pieces on the album because of their overarching effect that binds each track together.
Frahm doesn’t really reinvents himself from the ground in the manner his built this studio. All Melody again is a good example of how classic meet electronica, and thus is a celebration of Frahm’s core competence. Yet it’s also pushes Frahm to new heights when it comes to realizing his own unconventional imagination melting the old in modernity. The detail that comes with that on All Melody is amazing, this will keep the album interesting for all winters that still lie ahead.
Label: Erased Tapes, 2018
- The Whole Universe Wants to Be Touched (1:57)
- Sunson (9:10)
- A Place (7:01)
- My Friend the Forest (5:16)
- Human Range (6:59)
- Forever Changeless (2:47)
- All Melody (9:30)
- #2 (9:40)
- Momentum (5:20)
- Fundamental Values (3:50)
- Kaleidoscope (8:16)
- Harm Hymn (4:10)
Review by Wander Meulemans // 050218