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Nils Frahm: All Melody

 A l b u m   D e t a i l s

Label: Erased Tapes Records
Released: 2018.01.26
Category: Electronic
Producer(s): Nils Frahm
Media type: CD
Web address: www.nilsfrahm.com
Appears with:
Purchase date: 2018
Price in €: 1,00

 S o n g s ,   T r a c k s

[1] The Whole Universe Wants To Be Touched (N.Frahm) - 1:57
[2] Sunson (N.Frahm) - 9:09
[3] A Place (N.Frahm) - 7:01
[4] My Friend The Forest (N.Frahm) - 5:15
[5] Human Range (N.Frahm) - 6:58
[6] Forever Changeless (N.Frahm) - 2:47
[7] All Melody (N.Frahm) - 9:30
[8] #2 (N.Frahm) - 9:39
[9] Momentum (N.Frahm) - 5:20
[10] Fundamental Values (N.Frahm) - 3:49
[11] Kaleidoscope (N.Frahm) - 8:15
[12] Harm Hymn (N.Frahm) - 4:09

 A r t i s t s ,   P e r s o n n e l

Nils Frahm - Piano, Harmonium, Celesta, Percussion, Mellotron, Pipe Organ, Drum Machine, Effects, Producer, Engineer, Mixing, Synthesizer

Shards Choir:
Kieran Brunt - Conductor, Arrangement on [1,3,5,9,11]
Kate Huggett - Alto Vocals on [1,3,5,9,11]
Rose Martin - Alto Vocals on [1,3,5,9,11]
Sarah Latto - Alto Vocals on [1,3,5,9,11]
Augustus Perkins Ray - Bass Vocals on [1,3,5,9,11]
Dan D'Souza - Bass Vocals on [1,3,5,9,11]
John Laichena - Bass Vocals on [1,3,5,9,11]
Bethany Horak-Hallett - Soprano Vocals on [1,3,5,9,11]
Héloïse Werner - Soprano Vocals on [1,3,5,9,11]
Lucy Cronin - Soprano Vocals on [1,3,5,9,11]
Kieran Brunt - Tenor Vocals on [1,3,5,9,11]
Oliver Martin-Smith - Tenor Vocals on [1,3,5,9,11]
Sam Oladeinde - Tenor Vocals on [1,3,5,9,11]

Viktor Orri Árnason - Viola on [2,3,5]
Anne Müller - Cello on [3-5,10]
Tatu Rönkkö - Drums on [2,5], Percussion  on [2,3,5]
Sven Kacirek - Bass Marimba on [2,4-8,10]
Richard Koch - Trumpet on [5,10]
Sytze Pruiksma - Timpani, Gongs, Bass Drum, Melodic Percussion on [5,9]
Erik Skodvin - Processed Guitar & Unheard Sounds

Antonio Pulli - Assisting Engineer
Matthias H. Franz Hahn - Assisting Engineer
Terence Goodchild - Assisting Engineer
Zino Mikorey - Mastering
Torsten Posselt - Design
Lia Darjes - Photography
Carsten Schulz - Piano Technician

 C o m m e n t s ,   N o t e s

2018 CD Erased Tapes ERATP106
2018 LP Erased Tapes ERATP106LP

Written and produced by during 2016 and 2017 at Saal 3, Funkhaus Berlin.

For the past two years, Nils Frahm has been building a brand new studio in Berlin to make his 7th studio album titled All Melody, which will be released on January 26th, 2018 via Erased Tapes, before Nils embarks on his first world tour since 2015.

Since the day Nils first encountered the impressive studio of a family friend, he had envisioned to create one of his own at such a large scale. Fast forward to the present day and Nils is now the proud host of Saal 3, part of the historical 1950s East German Funkhaus building beside the River Spree. It is here where he has spent most of his time deconstructing and reconstructing the entire space from the cabling and electricity to the woodwork, before moving on to the finer elements; building a pipe organ and creating a mixing desk all from scratch with the help of his friends. This is somewhere music can be nurtured and not neglected, and where he can somewhat fulfil his pursuit of presenting music to the world as close to his imagination as possible.

His previous albums have often been accompanied with a story, such as Felt (2011) where he placed felt upon the hammers of the piano out of courtesy to his neighbours when recording late at night in his old bedroom studio, and the following album Screws (2012) when injuring his thumb forced him to play with only nine fingers. His new album is born out of the freedom that his new environment provided, allowing Nils to explore without any restrictions and to keep it All about the Melody.

Despite being confined within the majestic four walls of the Funkhaus, buried deep in its reverb chambers, or in an old dry well in Mallorca, All Melody is, in fact, proof that music is limitless, timeless, and reflects that of Nils’ own capabilities. From a boy’s dream to resetting the parameters of music itself.

Words from Nils, October 2017:

“In the process of completion, any album not only reveals what it has become but, maybe more importantly, what it hasn't become. All Melody was imagined to be so many things over time and it has been a whole lot, but never exactly what I planned it to be. I wanted to hear beautiful drums, drums I've never seen or heard before, accompanied by human voices, girls, and boys. They would sing a song from this very world and it would sound like it was from a different space. I heard a synthesiser which sounds like a harmonium playing the All Melody, melting together with a line of a harmonium sounding like a synthesiser. My pipe organ would turn into a drum machine, while my drum machine would sound like an orchestra of breathy flutes. I would turn my piano into my very voice, and any voice into a ringing string. The music I hear inside me will never end up on a record, as it seems I can only play it for myself. This record includes what I think sticks out and describes my recent musical discoveries in the best possible way I could imagine.”

Erased Tapes Records

Recorded in the storied Funkhaus studio in Germany, All Melody is pianist Nils Frahm’s grandest statement yet, yet it maintains the inquisitive, exploratory spirit of his most playful recordings.

It’s hard for Nils Frahm to resist the pull of a good concept. For 2011’s Felt, the German pianist draped a heavy cloth over the strings of his instrument—a gesture of respect for his neighbors that yielded an alluringly tactile sound. The following year’s Screws, written and recorded with a broken thumb, comprised nine songs for nine fingers. And the year after that, to capture the grandeur of his live shows—neoclassical, post-techno, maximally minimalist affairs performed on multiple acoustic and electronic keyboard instruments, in the spread-eagled style of the progressive-rock keyboardists of yore—he collaged Spaces out of two years’ worth of thrumming, rippling concert recordings. But a recent collaboration with the German musician F.S. Blumm proved that he’s just as good, if not better, without a big conceptual framework to prop him up. Their album Tag Eins Tag Zwei is a wonderfully low-key set of improvisations.

All Melody is Frahm’s first major work since 2015’s Solo, and it feels like his biggest statement yet. He has fleshed out his usual arsenal of keyboard instruments—piano, synthesizer, pipe organ, etc.—with strings, trumpet, tympani, gongs, even bass marimba. The whole thing was recorded in the Funkhaus, a 1950s-era recording complex in the former East Berlin where he spent two years painstakingly building his dream room, right down to a custom-built mixing desk. The album’s rich dynamics are a direct extension of that building’s pristine acoustics. He availed himself of the Funkhaus’ natural reverb chambers—concrete rooms into which sound is projected and re-recorded—and he fashioned his own jury-rigged version out of a dry well at a friend’s house on the Spanish island of Mallorca. There’s even a choir, London’s Shards, whose wordless voices open the album on “The Whole Universe Wants to Be Touched,” a bold scene-setter whose melody moves like wind through reeds. The title alone suggests that Frahm is swinging for the fences.

But All Melody never feels imposing or overwrought. Despite its ambitious scope and somber mood, it is infused with the same exploratory spirit that made Tag Eins Tag Zwei such a delight. True, it’s not a wildly varied record: The tempos are generally slow, the moods contemplative, the melancholy almost all-pervasive. But within that framework, he explores as much ground as he can, from grand, sweeping choral passages reminiscent of Arvo Pärt to understated piano études. “Human Range,” where a silvery trumpet melody tangles with a mossy ambient backing, is reminiscent of Bill Laswell’s extended remix of the Miles Davis catalog; the more electronic, rhythmically oriented cuts, particularly the twin centerpieces “All Melody” and “#2,” find common cause with the British producer Floating Points’ way of balancing programmed and improvised music.

If there’s a theme here, it’s that holistic idea hinted at in the title: the ur-sound, the pedal tone of spiritual unity. In the liner notes, Frahm rhapsodizes about the morphological orchestra of his dreams: “My pipe organ would turn into a drum machine, while my drum machine would sound like an orchestra of breathy flutes. I would turn my piano into my very voice, and any voice into a ringing string.” That sense of fluidity gives the record its shape-shifting identity. It’s often unclear what you’re listening to at any given moment; even songs that sound like solo piano turn out to have cello and bass marimba lurking somewhere within their folds. Turn it up loud enough, and you can get lost in details like the creaking of the hammers on Frahm’s piano, or the sound of birdsong, presumably recorded outside his riverside studio, along the banks of the Spree.

The Funkhaus is a mazelike complex, and the way the record is structured often feels like a scale model of its sprawl. Across 12 songs and 74 minutes, All Melody functions as a single, cohesive piece of music, with recurring themes interwoven throughout. It’s easy to get lost in the album and then, hearing a familiar motif, come up short, as if turning a corner in a long hallway and wondering if you hadn’t passed the same spot just a moment ago. It’s a pleasantly disorienting sensation. And after traversing long, repetitive tracks like “Sunson,” “All Melody,” and “#2,” encountering a highlight like “Forever Changeless,” a short, melodic sketch for piano, feels like stumbling upon a hidden chamber illuminated by a stained-glass window.

Yes, he can be tasteful to a fault, and some of his melodic instincts occasionally tip slightly too far toward drawing-room prettiness. But the gorgeous closing track, “Harm Hymn”—a kind of coda for the whole album, just a handful of chords played on a whisper-soft harmonium—shows that his strength as a musician isn’t in the complexity of his composition, but in the nuances he gets out of his instruments and onto the tape; it’s in the echo and in the air, and in the way that he plays the room itself. For once in his career, there is no grand concept—just the space of the Funkhaus itself, which proves to be more than enough.

Philip Sherburne - January 24 2018

It all begins unexpectedly – with a wordless chorale “ooh”-ing prettily. For his seventh studio album, German post-classical composer Nils Frahm has expanded his previous core solo piano brief – a brief that was, admittedly, always highly individual.

Here are novelties: trumpets and modular synths, birdsong and beatboxes, all recorded in his new base, a refurbished east German palace of mid-20th century tech, the Funkhaus Berlin. As ever, Frahm draws on his classical chops, accentuating the physicality of interacting with members of the piano family. The lush thwop of fingers on keys on hammers on strings on the nebulously jazzy My Friend the Forest or Forever Changeless is enough to give anyone an ASMR thrill. By contrast, Sunson emphasises Frahm’s porous borders, fading organ music into minimal dub techno percussion.

Frahm’s judgment slips though. While All Melody’s textures are magnificent, plick-plocking susurrations, his treatment of the human voice is like a gash in an otherwise beauteous canvas. Why, if you’re going to run tracks through a dry well in Mallorca just to get the organic reverb right, would you just get an off-the-peg western choir to “ah” boringly on tracks like Human Range?

Kitty Empire - 28 Jan 2018
The Guardian

"Ultimately, All Melody feels like a slight misnomer for such an ambitious and unclassifiable album. While undoubtedly boasting its share of earworm tunes, it's as much a showcase for the sheer plasticity of recorded sound as a vehicle for mellifluous expression."

4/5 stars - Mojo Magazine

"Merging musical approaches - jazz, house and dub flavours orbit the classically-influenced core - it sustains suspense and surprise over 12 emotionally-impactful tracks."

4/5 stars - Q Magazine

Nils Frahm's breakthrough record, the live album Spaces, captured everything that has since made him such a beloved artist: his delicate piano melodies, his effortless dexterity, his synth surges and digital effects. The 2013 LP distilled it all in a way that none of his studio albums could. In the years since, the Berlin-based artist has released a solo piano album, joined a band, scored films and performed other one-off pieces and collaborations. All Melody, his latest LP, returns to the core elements of his solo work while adding a few new sounds—horns, pipe organ, vocals. It's his best studio album yet.

Frahm recorded All Melody in his new studio at Funkhaus Berlin, the former GDR broadcast center turned multipurpose cultural space. Frahm is a perfectionist, and he pays close attention to reverb and room sound. The result is a plush and exquisitely produced album. It helps that many sounds on All Melody are acoustic, including an organ that Frahm sequenced like a bass synthesizer via MIDI. It makes techno-leaning tracks like "Sunson" feel even softer, as if woven with silk.

One of the first sounds you hear on All Melody is a human voice, which marks a change for Frahm. He uses a choir, horns and other instrumentation for the first time, shifting the spotlight from his piano playing to the overall compositions. The results are usually fantastic—on "Human Range," Robert Koch's trumpet emits pseudo-verbal inflections that recall Arve Henriksen. Horns act like gentle sighs underlining the melodies on "Sunson," while vocals add a breathy human dimension to "Kaleidoscope," painting in colours Frahm has scarcely used before.

Frahm's solo moments are as arresting as they've ever been. A constant tinkerer, he manipulates the innards of the piano to achieve a range of different sounds. You can hear the soft thud of piano strings on "My Friend The Forest" and a gentle rustling on "Forever Changeless." Both songs are relatively simple piano compositions enhanced by Frahm's playing style. It can feel both casually virtuosic and just slightly askew—not funky, exactly, but equally far from traditional classical playing.

All Melody is remarkably well-rounded. It's not a techno album, it's not a classical album and it's not an ambient album, but it at times resembles all three. In recent years, by having focusing so much on touring, Frahm earned a better understanding of what makes his music tick, and how his music connects with his audience. For All Melody, he didn't just try to channel the energy of his live performances. He brought that feeling of space, warmth and human connection into the studio with him.

Andrew Ryce - 30 Jan 2018
Copyright © 2018 Resident Advisor

Neues Studio, neue Freiräume: Auf seinem siebten Album findet der Minimal-Produzent zu sich selbst. In den letzten beiden Jahren war Nils Frahm damit beschäftigt, hinter den majestätischen Wänden des historischen Berliner Funkhauses ein neues Studio zu bauen: den Saal 3. Damit erfüllte sich Frahm einen Kindheitstraum, den er hegte, seit er das erste Mal das beeindruckende Tonstudio eines Familienfreundes erleben durfte. Bei der Renovierung wurden nicht nur sämtliche Kabel, Leitungen und Vertäfelungen neu montiert. Auch eine Orgel und ein komplettes Mischpult, die er in Eigenregie mit Hilfe von Freunden konstruiert hatte, fanden im Saal 3 ihren Platz. So entstand ein Ort, an dem Musik wachsen kann und wo Ideen kultiviert werden können. Das heißt ein Raum, in dem Frahm seine Musik so gestalten und präsentieren kann, dass sie seinen eigenen Vorstellungen so nah wie möglich kommt. In diesem Kreativreich an der Spree entstand aus den immensen Freiräumen und Möglichkeiten heraus "All Melody", Frahms siebtes Studioalbum. Es ist der wohlklingende Beweis dafür, dass Musik wirklich keine Grenzen kennt. Dass sie zeitlos ist. Und dass Frahm einen sehr langen Weg zurückgelegt hat - vom staunenden Kind bis zu einem Künstler, der die Parameter der Musik im eigenen Studio komplett selbst steuern kann.


Nils Frahm ist ein wunderbares Beispiel dafür, dass experimentelle Musik nicht wehtun muss und auch dafür, dass die zurzeit ultra-schicken Neo-Klassik-Elektronik-Fusionen komplett kitschbefreit sein können. Der Komponist und Produzent erreicht mit seiner gemäßigten Avantgarde, die immer noch Outsider-Music ist, ein vergleichsweise großes Publikum.

Frahms siebtes (Solo-)Album ALL MELODY erzählt auch eine Geschichte darüber, dass das Umfeld, in dem Kunst entsteht, einen entscheidenden Einfluss auf diese Kunst hat. Musik ist halt mehr als nur die Aneinanderreihung von Tönen. Frahm hat sich im historischen „Funkhaus“ in Berlin ein neues Studio eingerichtet, das viel Raum zwischen den holzvertäfelten Wänden lässt für vintage und selbst gebaute Instrumente.

Selten ist elektronischer Minimalismus und zeitgenössische klassische Musik so scheinbar mühelos zu einem melodienreichen Impressionismus fusioniert worden. Auf ALL MELODY sind die Hierarchien auf angenehme Weise verschoben. Es sind nicht zwangsläufig die „klassischen“ Instrumente für die Melodien zuständig und die Electronics für die Beats, es kann auch umgekehrt sein. Zum Beispiel „Sunson“, das nach einem sakra­len Orgelvorspiel zu einem astreinen unelektronischen Techno-Track wird. Oder die dezenten Abstraktionen in „A Place“, die eine elektronische Wirkung entfalten, ohne explizit elektronisch zu sein.

Nur wer weiß, dass aus den jahrelangen Sessions für ALL MELODY Musik für 20 Alben entstanden ist, glaubt eine gewisse Inhomogenität der Tracks zu erkennen: Piano-Solo-Stücke, Ambient-artige Kompositionen, Minimal Music, Glitch, Techno not Techno. Aber ein Album ist das, was der Künstler dazu bestimmt, egal wie viele Aufnahmen nicht verwendet wurden.

Albert Koch - 26. Januar 2018

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