A new studio and some hand-built instruments appear to be the main catalysts behind the subtle shifts on this, the tenth Nils Frahm solo album. Where most recently it was about pure solo piano works here we open with wordless vocals and move on to a pulse created from actual drums. These are not new moves in the scheme of music creation, they’re about as old as you can get, but in the worlds and modes of music made by German post-classical pianist Nils Frahm these are made to feel fresh and exciting; change-ups even!
All Melody is subtle and beautiful and expressive and all of the things you may have come to know and expect from Frahm – but it is also really exploratory and new, it is full of ideas, even if they slowly, surely unwind.
We open with a sub two-minute choral piece (The Whole Universe Wants To Be Touched) before stretching out into 10 minutes of progressive electronica (Sunson) and the hypnotic electronics of A Place.
The old tricks – think of an album like Spaces – are still there. You feel like you’re almost sitting next to Frahm on the piano bench for the opening of My Friend The Forest, or later on Forever Changeless. You can hear the spaces, so lush and lovely, between the notes. You can hear and feel breathing and sometimes footsteps and the space within the walls, the floor and ceiling of the new studio too, they all play their part/s.
This music on All Melody slowly, surely builds itself up around the listener and the finest moments have me thinking of how Squarepusher or Chilly Gonzales might approach a re-worked version of Keith Jarrett’s Koln Concert.
Which is – in my world, at least – about the highest praise, the greatest touchstone, the most brilliant idea.
Frahm’s recent soundtrack excursions and collaborations have been wonderful. But to hear him in this new element, to hear him using new elements, to hear him again as solo explorer, well this is the Nils Frahm I know and love best. And this feels like a brand new headphone masterpiece.
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