5. All Melody - Nils Frahm (Erased Tapes)
Released last January, 'All Melody' by Nils Frahm was the first great album of 2018. It is one of those fascinating works that offers something different each time it is played. It arrived during a drab mid winter and somehow it managed to change with the seasons.
'All Melody' is also Frahm's largest production to date (bigger studio greater technology, more musicians, etc.), and with that there is always a fear that something unique and intimate may be lost in the transition. But all fears such worrisome thoughts should be put aside. Frahm is not going to disappoint. This is what we wrote early last year about 'All Melody':
All Melody opens with the sound of someone walking, probably even running and tripping, across a studio floor. Before a note of music has been played the scene been set, the listener has been given their first impression of Frahm at work in his new studio and something very beautiful is about to happen.
What happens next is a surprise. For an artist known almost exclusively for his work with pianos, pipe organs, synths, processors and drum machines, the wordless singing of London based choir Shards feels a little incongruous.
The choir, like many of the elements of All Melody, make repeated appearances throughout the album, their voices weave in an out of the proceedings, like characters in a novel. Their reintroduction on the gentle 'A Place' provides an affecting juxtaposition of divine voices with Frahm's dark electronic textures. But it's the mixture of the choir with the lonely cry of Richard Koch's trumpet on Human Range that is the most poignant and moving.
Frahm's decision to move his studio from his apartment into Saal 3, a former East Berlin broadcast facility that was built in the 1950s, is a key factor in the development of his sound. It's not simply that he now has the physical space to invite other musicians to perform with him, as much as the new environment has brought a new depth and warmth to his sound.
Whereas previously, Frahm's albums of minimalist piano pieces (Screws, Felt, Solo etc.) were so intimate that the listener could almost sense the confined conditions that they were recorded in, All Melody flows freely, the instruments blending seamlessly together in their new surroundings.
The title track is a perfect example of the new freedom that Frahm has. It's hypnotic melody rises, falls and rises again, quietly disappears and then builds to an intoxicating conclusion. It's breathtaking.
All Melody is a remarkable and immersive experience. It is a journey through a series of spellbinding atmospheres, there may be elements of jazz, classical and electronic music here, but it's the graceful way that it all flows together to create something new. It is Nils Frahm's finest album to date.
Jason Lewis is a Birmingham based music, movie and arts obsessive. Jason's encyclopedic knowledge of 80s/90s Arts films is a debt to his embedded status in the Triangle Arts Centre trenches back then.