All Melody by Nils FrahmRelease date: January 26, 2018
Label: Erased Tapes
Before recording All Melody, composer Nils Frahm deconstructed and reconstructed a studio in East Germany’s Funkhaus. He fell in love with a space that was formerly used by the GDR communist state for radio broadcasts. As well as renovating the woodwork and refitting the cabling, with the help of some friends he built a pipe organ and mixing desk from scratch. Few albums have benefitted from this much attention to detail prior to recording.
These efforts were not wasted. Listening to All Melody (Frahm’s tenth solo album) is an involved process. You become acquainted with the audible characteristics of the room it was recorded in. Musical staples such as reverb are revitalised by Frahm who opts to use Funkhaus’ original reverb chambers rather than falling back on commonplace digital methods.
Frahm’s songs act as landscapes, he gives you plenty of time to explore and take in each one but they require your full attention. This is not background music, it’s too surprising and distracting to enable you to focus on something else. Every now and then All Melody lands on a deliberately jarring or counter-intuitive element to grab the attention of any listeners who have been pulled into hypnosis, such as the ooo-ing vocals on ‘A Place’ or the trumpet on ‘Fundamental Values’.
‘Sunson’ has an outstanding mixture of unusual organic sounds. Frahm’s distinctive pipe organ takes the role of a drum machine alongside smart digital programming, which would be a sin if it wasn’t so apt. ‘A Place’ is light on melody, its main purpose seems to be driving the arpeggiators into obscure, percussive spaces, creating strange meeting points between digital and analogue sounds. ‘My Friend the Forest’ has an irresistible piano melody, each time it leaves his fingers, he masterfully puts a slightly different emphasis on particular notes.
This is not easy record to label. Some tracks embrace minimal electronica, others use solely acoustic instrumentation. Centrepiece songs ‘All Melody’ and ‘Kaleidoscope’ are so energetic that it can’t fall under the bracket of ambient music either. You can only fully appreciate what kind of album this is through digesting it’s full 74 minute running time.