Nils Frahm Explores And Ignores The Constraints Of Genre

Thursday 29th, March 2018 / 07:00
By Mat Wilkins

Photo by Alexander Schneider

VANCOUVER – Nils Frahm’s latest record for Erased Tapes, All Melody is constructed exactly as the name implies. From minimal trance beats to solo piano tunes, no sonic stone has been left unturned on this versatile —yet delightfully cohesive— project.

In this ‘band as a brand’ world where sound, aesthetic, genre, and style are paramount, Frahm’s creations are no small feat. Holed up at the famous Funkhaus Studio on the banks of Berlin’s Spree River, Frahm credits a large part of the album’s success to his self-imposed isolation. He spent so much time in Funkhaus’ Saal-3 studio that he occasionally slept there, away from the hustle and bustle of life as a wildly successful contemporary composer.

“[Touring] makes you a little bit dumb in the long run, because you’re basically always recovering from some jetlag, party, concert,” explains Frahm. “It never really feels like you’re really doing something to feed your brain.”

Throughout his 13-year career, Frahm’s music has always been hard to pin down thematically. Often described by confused critics as neoclassical, ambient, electronic, and more, each release eludes classification through cleverly blurring the lines between classical and electronic. He, himself, defines it simply as “instrumental.”

All Melody begins with “The Whole Universe Wants to Be Touched,” as its haunting chorus of voices spin a wordless melody out over a low, otherworldly organ. The track then melts into a foreboding ambience that blends seamlessly into “Sunson,” a considered but club-ready tune with the type of kick drum that makes even the particularly stationary want to get up and groove. “My Friend the Forest,” dramatically changes the pace mid-album, as Frahm’s signature mic technique layers the sound of clicking piano keys, the rustling of clothes, and the occasional breath over solo piano. But don’t be quick to attribute this sort of tonal freneticism to mere coincidence; all of the tracks on the record were included deliberately, whittled down from 60 rough songs to only 12.

“We can all be humble and stubborn and just do the things we want to do… without any yelling or crying for attention,” Frahm says over the phone. “I want to state with my music that all of this is absolutely possible.”

Frahm takes great pride in his genre-defying work, free from the constraints of an occasionally stifling music industry. Ironically, All Melody came in at #2 on Billboard’s classical albums top 25 for 2 consecutive weeks.

With an insightful, matter-of-fact approach to creating, Frahm has not only honed his skills as one of the most accomplished and unique composers in the world, but has also garnered a considerable group of loyal fans, who will be delighted to hear that the post-album tour is well on its way.

“I think it’s the best show I’ve ever produced.”

Nils Frahm plays at the Vogue Theatre on April 1st.

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