Olafur Arnaulds and Nils Frahm – Collaborative Works LP Review

Multi-instrumentalist and Composer Ólafur Arnalds and Berlin based Pianist and Producer Nils Frahm have paired up for a low-key, super synthesised collaboration, resulting in a collection of their previous releases ‘Loon’, ‘Stare’ and ‘Life Story Love and Glory’ plus 7 new songs from the ‘Trance Frendz’ studio film.

This latest offering (released late 2015 on 12”) by their pioneering ambient music record label – Erased Tapes possesses a calm icey cool vibe, with a detached tone of melancholy in the same vein as Air and Tangerine Dream, which consequently make it the perfect post-party comedown music, or possibly the go-to soundtrack of a suitably dark cult, teen angst film such as the likes of Virgin Suicides or Donnie Darko. However this pace is altered as it builds in momentum, and is heightened on Side B/2 as it hurtles towards a much deeper dub-techno direction (a nod to Frahm’s earlier 2013 release ‘Spaces’).

Originally brainstormed as a way of archiving the two experimental artists mutual recordings across several EPs and a limited edition 7″, the album doubled in size when Arnalds and Frahm improvised a further seven pieces while they were in the process of laying them all down. The end result was over 100 minutes of music spread across two discs, after a total of four years collaboration.

The overall effect is strange, glistening and mostly ambient with moments of beauty in between, with tracks such as “Four” delaying and skipping as delicate little chime notes float back and forth. The subsequent “Three” could’ve nestled in nicely on Eno’s galactic themed masterpiece Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks, “Wide Open” relies on the spaces in between the notes to create a somber mood.

The songs of Stare feel the most contemporary, despite being the oldest recordings here, coming from a session in 2011. “a2” is an ambient lullaby of sorts and its partner “a1” is begging for a dance remix of sorts. But it’s “b1” that is the real highlight of Collaborative Works. Over 13 minutes, the distorted synths in the background warp and alter with unique nuances. Nevertheless Trance Frendz is particularly impressive, as each track here is an improvised duet between Frahm & Arnalds.

Collaborative Works offers a strange shared world that as a whole, may seem disjointed and cohesive, but it’s bound by a meeting of minds and a unique musical kinship that pushes boundaries into a multitude of underexplored genres. We look forward to seeing what’s up Arnalds and Frahm sleeves in 2016…

Order it here.


Written by Natalie Wardle.