Review: Nils Frahm’s sensory anatomy in ‘All Melody’

Nils Frahm | All Melody | Erased Tapes

Release date: January 26th 2018

Review by Jenna Dreisenstock

Vast open spaces within a constraint. Worlds within a wooden bowl; a four walled reverberation of sound; bouncing, rolling, caressing each object as it produces its unique timbre. Layered sounds presented back to us as we present them; collaboration of that which is imagined vs that which could vs that which is. Context is of no need for concept; context as a concept. A personal aura at the sensitivity of each noise and its call back. Existence under the weight of a story can be a cumbersome limitation; how far to push in our realm and how close they push back. Rather than an attachment to a narration; this open space we may grasp, allows a (mental) opportunity for furthering sound, beyond what is expected in the plunge of the proverbial ocean of experience. Despite the four-walled physical, sounds may bounce back into one another, glide past; sleep attached. Push each noise that inhabits you through itself and over. Explore the dynamic and recreation. The dynamic and the reaction. The dynamic and the effect. Create your space & space & space & constraint. It exists because it does; how much of ourselves to let go to create. the most difficult of limitation is expectation, hearing the waves of sound from within ourselves crash into their physical form; could it ever be what imagined? Take the imagined and twist it. Let it thrive. Let it go.

Nils Frahms’ newest album, All Melody; we’re invited into the let go of boundaries within boundaries. Exploration of sound; eager glimmer of the new and imagined through new eyes. All but moments in time. His first album since 2015’s Solo, the German composer and musician breaks the threshold of auditory experimentation; a confined space but never to be confined. Proud host of Saal 3, a part of the well-known historical 1950s German Funkhaus building: it is here that Frahm created his vast space within limited space, exploring the nuances of sound through his own experimentation of reaction//attraction. With this new space in which to wander, Frahm let go of the conceptual ideas present in previous albums such as Felt (2011) and Screws (2012) and grasped the opportunity of new found freedom as a playground. Physically constructing, deconstructing, constructing – Frahm arranged his sound space from his perspective, working with everything from the cabling, electricity and woodwork of the building; to building instruments such as pipe organs from scratch, accompanied by a homemade mixing desk with the help of friends. In this space Frahm takes the the confinement of four walls and twists them into a limitless world of soundscape.

The album lies within itself as a melancholic, yet curious approach to allowing oneself into the nuance of sound. Traversing genres, Frahm manages to keep the pacing steady yet ever changing; toying with instruments as gut feelings within a whole new array of freedoms. Frahms’ renowned talent for textural layering of the electronic and classical tones present themselves in many forms and manage yet to interlink. In ‘A Place‘, we are presented with an ambient traverse through light in electronic soundscape; an artificial repetition, a closed-eye journey through a room in which each object bears its own unique tone: Frahm speaks of this album as instruments presented through other instruments – we see the push, quiet emergence and isolation of an unexpected timbre in mood – the ambience floats an electronic, light touch contact with the appearance of woodwind, earthy tone; an exploration with voices in harmony; a reminder of the lightness of the often heavy brass uplift.  

Human Range‘; the experiences in which we expand ourselves forth; speaks in sound as an elaboration of its title. With an expand of Frahms’ flirtation with constructing and deconstructing layers of timbre, an introduction of a driven, yet tender trumpet an astral guide forward; ambient foley creates an aura of a touch-bounce of the woodwork. An introduction of classical instruments take short breaths, breathe into a slow waltz with the vocal harmonies; reverberation and connection, melancholic brass and the highs, lows of a choral arrangement; the peek through of strings -physical instruments speak as human voices, human voices speak as physical instruments. Not within the limits of tone, but in the expression of one instrument as the other.

In ‘My Friend The Forest‘ and ‘Forever Changeless‘, we see a return of comfort to Frahms’ focus on classical piano pieces, while slow and calm in approach allow us a different distinction in genre presented to us. An introverted induction by the low light ambience of the solo pianist; a mood in which, rather than melancholic fits self-introspection, notes follow the feeling. Reminiscent of a slow blues, a jazz homage in the tender air of allowing in the open space.

The title track ‘All Melody‘ brings forth a more upbeat aural engulf as Frahm allows the will of subtlety in each electronic resonance to accompany and harmonize; an expanding project of anatomy in sound; guiding itself forward and holding on to, letting go. ‘#2‘ in it’s nature, follows a similar guidance; no set path, but rather a texture, tone, timbre pushing itself to push another or take it back. The sounds work in conjunction with one another as though they exist independent of themselves, an entity working itself through a timeless world; finding itself and disregarding itself. These aspects of life in the instrumentally articulate create a curious entity that as it repeats it learns, and it creates independent. 

Kaleidoscope‘ opens in doldrums as a drone, yet quickly moves forward into an enthralling glissando and harmonious exist; not overbearing, yet confident. A break from expected genre, providing the fast paced through unexplored instruments typically not found within ambient, electronic compositions; therein lies the presence of marimba, allowing a sound unexplored in western electronic compositions, working in harmony with celestial strings and eclectic synths; moments in time, journey through the down and upbeat. 

All Melody; in its’ nature, traverses in its’ inherent many-natures. The resonance of harmonies against the woodwork, each object tender to the touch and production of a sensitive sound. An eyes closed, focused yet endless drift through a seascape of experimentation and differentiation from the norm; still true to Frahms’ own, every growing roots and new found freedom in artificial abstraction; breaking the walls while living inside of them – there need not be concept, only context. Context may thrive forward without set path or need for definition. All Melody, true to it’s name allows itself forward in acceptance of unknowing but feeling, moving somewhere but unsure of final destination; which is its liberation. In the journey to present oneself through an instrument, presenting itself through another, back again and around: the mesmer of the let go of trusting one’s inspiration: a passive glide into the experience – yet the importance of an active role in making it happen.

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