Nils Frahm is a wonderfully talented pianist. Seeing him play piano at the Captain’s Rest earlier this year was one of the most fantastic live experiences. Put simply, the man is an incredible talent and if you do like piano playing at its finest then you have to make sure you catch him live when he plays near you.
What many people don’t know is that he fell into modern classical piano composition pretty much by accident. He was in fact, focused on being an electronic artist and I believe it was only after advice from Peter Broderick that Nils decided to focus on the world of piano. Based on his two previous releases ‘wintermusik’ and ‘the bells’, listening to Broderick was a very, very wise move. Both those records are delightful exhibits of what the man is capable of. ‘The Bells’ in particular, is simply stunning.
Be prepared then to be surprised by this new record. Recorded with the help of Anne Müller of Wolf-Ferrari Ensemble, the piano is all but non-existent for the majority of this album, with strings taking the central role as glitch rhythms and sound scapes add to the overall atmosphere throughout. When the piano does eventually appear, it is almost an accompaniment to the rhythms, intertwined beautifully to create tracks reminiscent of pieces from Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto’s ‘Insen.’
For me, this is a fantastically thought out and executed album. What I love most about it is the fact that there is a conscious decision to make the piano a bit part player in the overall sound. Müller’s talent for string arrangement combined with Frahm’s fantastic compositional skill really work brilliantly together. When at the forefront, the strings are mournfully beautiful. When an accompaniment they add evocatively to the overall sound and texture. The subservience of the piano though is a masterstroke as, when eventually it does arrive, it adds such beauty and a lovely change in tone and texture. The overall result is a record which highlights that Frahm may be a master on his instrument of choice but when it comes to composition and arrangement he is equally assured. Müller is clearly a talented string composer and one to keep an eye on in the future. When all the elements are brought together on this record, Frahm and Müller have created something quite beautiful. If there is one criticism I have it would be that the vocal line on closing track ‘Long Enough’ feels a little unnecessary. That is my only one slight issue though and this record has captured my heart and mind. Please check it out Nils Frahm here. Anne Müller here. Enjoy.