Nils Frahm is always a pleasure to listen to. His ability to create such intricate textures out of single instruments makes his music captivating for the listener.
“My Friend the Forest” is a track that demonstrates these qualities perfectly. A closely mic’d piano is the main instrument on the piece. The piano is played softly, and the mic pics up a lot of the mechanical noise of the instrument. This helps enhance the piece, by creating an intimacy and realism in the performance, which gives it greater emotional weight. Give the track a listen below:
I’ve talked repeatedly about my love of Nils Frahm and seeing him towards the end of last year was a great experience. “All Armed” perfectly demonstrates what he does best. Namely stripping down music to its rawest form melodically and instrumentally. But then giving each of those instruments a rich sound and deep sound stage to shine in.
The bass line in “All Armed” is a perfect example. It’s comprised of only three different notes and looping every 8 bars for almost the entirety of this 11 and a half minute track. However it never gets stale, as filters slightly open and close, varying the synth between softer and a more aggressive edge as it oozes with the warmth that you can only achieve from analogue circuitry.
The bass may be the front and center of this track, providing the foundation and permanent drive of the piece. But other organic eastern instruments pepper their way throughout, creating a world that sounds brooding dark and exiting.
Some tracks just come along at the right times, I first heard “All Armed” when driving to a night shift in work and the atmosphere of the track perfectly suits this experience. So why don’t you do the same. Drop it into a driving playlist and see just how great Nils Frahm is at setting a scene and a mood:
Nils Frahm has always had a fascination with musical instruments. You can tell from the way he presents them in his music. The mechanics of the machines that create the sounds you hear are a problem to be mitigated for most producers, but in all of Frahm’s work they are celebrated.
His past couple of solo albums have focused on uniquely designed pianos and the music he could create with them. The way these pianos excelled in niches by design, guided the composition of the pieces in directions you wouldn’t usually take or hear. The skill in the songs creation came from a synergy between the musician and the instrument. You could hear the keys being pressed and the hammers hitting the strings in an organic and vivid way. It takes the listener into the performance and the sound of the room as much as the piece itself.
On his latest he adjusts his style of composition to a more traditional and broader collection of instruments, but his choice in recording techniques and microphone placement continues his characteristic approach to the organic sound of the instruments. You can hear every key press and breath on the woodwinds in the track Sunson becoming a backbone to the rhythm.
I think Frahms greatest achievement is how he blends very raw sounding organic instrumentation with electronic synthesis so they at times become indistinguishable from each other. Its a talent he showed on my favourite album of 2016 trance frendz, where he collaborated with Olafur Arnalds and he’s done it again here. Proving that synthesizers can be more than the harsh simple tones you hear on the charts but just as nuanced as any traditional instrument with the right experience of programming and playing.
It’s early days but I don’t want to say anymore about this record unless I need to do a full write up for my end of year list. Needless to say I’m very impressed with the whole thing. It’s well worth anyone’s time so give it a listen:
As the year comes to an end It was time to celebrate my favourite music of the year with my list and a brief review of my favourite five albums. they are in no particular order (excluding the album of the year). Feel free to click the links below and give them a read.
On 28th of July 2015 composers/multi instrumentalists Olafur Arnalds and Nils Fram met at Nils’s Durton Studio In Berlin with documentarian Alexander Schneider to play and record an evening of music and film the event. The outcome of which was this album Trance Frendz. It features no over dubbing (added instrumentation) so you don’t get the complexity found in any of the other albums on my list. What you do get though is a direct connection to the artists through their instruments. No elaboration or extension, just the raw, Improvised idea. The moment of creation in its purest form, recorded for all to hear and see.
The instrumentation features a different collection of pianos, keys, Synths and a glockensphiel. Although they are limited to only a couple of instruments a track. Each one has its own unique character and sound which subtly gives them an individuality. It’s this focus on detail that really exemplifies the record. Instruments are recorded naturally with plenty of room ambience which becomes a key feature in the organic and pure nature of the work.
Both artists have collaborated previously and have the same styles in their music. So they complement each other perfectly on these collection of duets. Creating a sound that varies from the light and playful to the darker more powerful tracks which feature prominent synthesis. However all of these tracks are chameleons. They seem to blend into many atmospheres. At quiet levels they can work as ambient pieces to play in the background of many settings, however turn up the volume and they immerse you in the sound of their world.
The hybrid nature of this release has made it quite hard to pin down to a year. Although the album was recorded and was available to view online last year. The distribution of the work on Vinal and CD box set, with their other collaboration work Loon, was staggered internationally with a UK release of this year. This is a mark of the times in many ways. Smaller artists and labels have to improvise in the distribution of hard copies but the digital domain allows a new and creative form of distribution. The ability to watch the live creation of this album on YouTube is another welcome addition to the music. Giving you and in depth look at how it was made, but also a further understanding behind he artists creating the work.
In a year of chaos and instability, times of self reflection and concentration have been a regular occurrence for me and this album has been its soundtrack. An escape from the surroundings into a simple but beautiful world. A demonstration of creativity in its purest most exiting form. It shows the positivity and wonder that we can achieve, even on the spur of the moment and if that isn’t the best thing to take with us into 2017 I don’t know what is:
After speaking Highly of Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm on my Track of the Week this week, a video of them making it came to my attention on youtube and shows the whole process of making the album over one night in Nils Frahms studio in Berlin.
It’s a great document to the album and well worth your time so I thought I should bring it to your attention as a special bonus for this week:
After listening to the EP “Loon” by Ólafur Arnalds & Nils Frahm a few months ago and really enjoying the sparse soundscapes created by the experimental artists collaboration, I decided to dig deeper into some of their other works.
“Trance Frendz” came out this year and the sound of minimal organic instrumentation blended with strongly synthetic elements is still here, but this time with a stronger structure in terms of an album. The longer playtime allows them to create an overall mood that slowly shifts between the tracks which when played as a complete piece become more than the sum of their parts.
23:52 comes right in the middle of the “Trance Frendz” and provides this powerful, awe inspiring force that gives the album a sense of scope grander then the more insular music found on “Loon”.
Although fairly simple in structure the sound design is complex and rich and as the filters on the synth open they reveal more and more layers of design until the scale of the track reaches cosmic levels. Simple yet incredibly powerful work from two artists who are quickly becoming some of my favourites working in electronic music today:
I first heard Nils Frahm from his fantastic EP -solo- which featured a collection of tracks for piano that were beautifully constructed. On this EP he has collaborated Olafur Arlands another purveyor of music which mangle piano with electronics. Togehter they have created a great collection of tracks that exist in their own world of organic and electric.
Four is my favourite track from this collection, although the soundscape is fairly minimal on the track each sound has been carefully thought about giving it the space for its dynamics to really shine. As soon as you mix a bitter-sweet melody which electronics ill be a happy man and this track is no exception:
Spotify (TOTW Playlist)
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