Nils Frahm – composer, pianist, some sort of wizard actually – released Spaces a couple of years ago, one of my favourite records of recent times. It put his piano in a variety of contexts, subtle electronics bending and flitting beneath and around the exquisite moods and melodies he creates, casting them, like giant shadows, across a vast musical landscape.
Here he returns to his proud “solo” stance – offering the album up for free download to celebrate Piano Day – it is Frahm framing mood through melody, melody-as-mood once again. It is Frahm tracing the same sorts of shapes as Harold Budd and, more recently, Chilly Gonzales, Olafur Arnalds’ piano work too; in terms of the intensity, the space, the overall shape of it you could think back to Keith Jarrett sitting solo at the piano, further back even to Satie.
It’s almost the antidote if you find the likes of Lubomyr Melnyk too verbose at the keys. But still there’s that same type of intensity.
Solo so gradually sneaks up on you, there’s an outpouring across the album’s final three cuts. The almost-stroppy start to Wall, the workout that is Immerse! (the longest track here, at nearly 11 minutes) and then the closer, Four Hands.
Before that it’s soft and snakey, Circling a noir-ish piece of film score-in-waiting, the opener, Ode, so slight as to be Budd when treated by Eno, or at least occupying that similar space of music that’s never quite there and yet always and forever lingering.
That’s the magic that’s summoned here. Once again. A music that could be explained away as simply the result of Frahm waving a magic wand across the keys as much as ever stroking one of them. A ghostliness to these notes, not just ghost-notes but a spooky ethereality, gossamer shading, the softness and thin beauty in Some or Merry could have you happily weeping. There’s something stoic there in Chant, an altogether different brand of magic.