Album of the Week: Nils Frahm – All Melody

There’s always been a kind of fluidity between classical- and electronic music since the dawn of the transistor, and the gap between these musics has since only narrowed as composers like Delia Derbyshire, John Cage, Glen Gould and Terry Riley adopted the studio as an instrument. Artists like Max Richter and Jóhann Jóhannsson continued this tradition up to the present, and as electronic music evolved, so did the musical palette these artists borrowed from. Electronic percussive music and the rhythm experiments of Terry Riley would inform their musical textures with the same minimalist resolve as club music and created an unlikely thread between these two worlds.

Amongst them the German composer Nils Frahm too would emerge, and took it one step further, incorporating drum machines and synthesisers in his solo piano works that had a foot in both sides of this musical spectrum. A live performer, whose performances are able to switch between the club setting and the concert hall, Frahm’s music has enjoyed an ambiguity that has been adopted by both factions. Often making appearances in DJ sets as well as crafting a few himself, he enjoys a symbiotic relationship with the dance floor and its musical traditions. The composer’s music is instantly recognisable for its minimalist, melodic charm and celestial textures that  lend from to the heady nature of dance music. Albums like “Screws” and “Solo” have made severe impressions in the past and on his latest work, “All Melody” he might have created his greatest work yet.

This isn’t mere exaggeration and one important aspect of this latest album has set it apart from all his previous works; the studio. All Melody is the first work to be released, that was entirely recorded in Frahm’s dream studio, Saal 3 at the former East German broadcast centre Funkhaus in Berlin. With “every acoustic environment” at his disposal, Nils Frahm was able to create those magnificent and enchanting textures that drift through the album like a soft bilious cloud. Essentially an acoustic album, save the Roland Juno synthesiser  at the heart of his setup, Frahm relied totally on the studio as an instrument from which he coaxed out some of the most endearing sounds and arrangements.

“All Melody” is an incredibly beautiful album with a serene solemnity running through its every moment. There’s a narrative that runs from one end of the album to the end as if it was recorded in one continuous sitting. Familiar themes develop throughout  the album and some old themes from Frahm’s previous albums like” Screws” find new life on tracks like “Forever Changeless”. “Sunson” with its aloof kick clearly makes its mark as the single from the album, but sandwiched between the introduction and “A Place” with their haunting vocal lines, it feels more like a stepping stone, perhaps even a necessity that Frahm feels he should get out of the way quickly, before he embarks on the rest of the album and its mostly beat-less form.

“All Melody” evokes feelings of sadness, loneliness and contentment and as the title suggests its main intrigue is its melodies, often quite simple, innocent melodies which Frahm manipulates to great affect through the studio. The organic essence of the record and its instruments makes for a warm album, something not easily accomplished in the realm of cold stark electronic instruments. It’s hard to imagine an album more perfect than this coming from the German composer, and it will surely stand as a modern day classic in the years to come.