Album Review: Nils Frahm – All Melody (Erased Tapes)

Funkhaus frequencies

I discovered Nils Frahm just before he stopped touring to concentrate on building a new studio, it was bad timing especially when the full glory of his live album Spaces became apparent. Now, at last, he’s released the record that took him out of circulation and has a world tour planned, let’s hope that the standard is maintained. This album suggests it will because it reveals a broader range of sounds and ideas than his earlier works, they are good, very good at times but Frahm has clearly learned what works best for him and his audiences. According to Frahm “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.” The sounds he imagines in his head seem impossible but Frahm produces music that is extraordinarily beautiful and radiant which is presumably the closest approximation to his thoughts.

On All Melody he has used human voices for the first time, these are arranged choral fashion making sounds rather than singing lyrics, this first comes to light on A Place where textured synth beats that have soft and sharp tones are joined by violin sounds and morph into positively floppy beats toward the end. Like all 12 pieces on the album nothing stays the same for long but the transitions are seamless, My Friend the Forest is almost a solo piano work but there are strange quiet sounds that could be close miking on the keys or pedals of the instrument. Every track has low level elements which produce a soundscape that varies in scale and dynamics, there are significant variations in volume between the near silent in- and outros and the high point of each track for instance and notes from either end of the scale.

The high point of the album is Human Range which has a distant bass drum on the intro that backs up Robert Koch whose trumpet playing emulates Miles Davis or Nils Petter Molvaer in their quieter moments. A choral element is brought in as are string sounds so the whole piece is tremendously rich and enveloping. All Melody is an excellent recording that was made at Frahm’s new studio in the Funkhaus, a former GDR broadcast centre in Berlin where he reportedly rebuilt the live room, installed all new wiring and even built a pipe organ that can be sequenced through MIDI. Frahm’s albums have always sounded good but this takes them to the next level, at this rate there could be an album on ECM one day.

Frahm hasn’t abandoned the sound that got his this far, the title track starts out like For Peter – Toilet Brushes, from Spaces, and for a while it’s not obvious where the melody is coming from but it slips in while you are enjoying the beats and develops with the addition of distant flute and percussive sounds, and extra layers of synth building up the picture. Kaleidoscope on the other hand comes in with long, bassy synth notes reminiscent of Bladerunner before something akin to a synthesised harpsichord takes the stage and soon enough you’re properly relaxed. All Melody is a lovely album, the best Nils Frahm has made in a studio to date, it will be intriguing to hear what he does with it on stage.

Jason Kennedy
@TheEarEditor

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