Friday, 1 September 2017

Nils Frahm - The Bells (2009)

Looking for the ideal wind-down for this first September weekend?  May I suggest 40 minutes of exquisite solo piano, courtesy of pianist/composer/producer Nils Frahm, born 1982 in Hamburg.  In November 2008, Frahm and composer friend Peter Broderick rented a Berlin church for two nights, capturing over five hours of Frahm's improvisations with Broderick providing idiosyncratic musical direction (at one point lying down on the piano strings).  The best of these sessions was then trimmed down to album length.

The end result clearly displays Frahm's talent for melody and harmony, and a Jarrett-esque knack for pulling instant classics out of thin air.  But even more than that, The Bells is primarily an album about exploiting the resonances of the piano and the ambient atmosphere of the church to their fullest extent.  It's certainly no mellow, Harold Budd-like chillout experience, although these moments are evident - but if you were to use this album for relaxation you'll frequently find the mood punctured by several instances of Frahm letting rip at full power, like someone taking a snooze on a churchyard bench only to be jolted awake by pealing bells.

Inspired by the recording venue, Frahm seems to enjoy these bell-like piano tones ringing through the reverberating space as majestically as possible.  I'm reminded more than once of Erik Satie's Ogives, especially a recent ECM New Series rendering by Sarah Rothenberg (the album centered around Feldman's Rothko Chapel; may post it at some point).  Stirring, invigorating stuff.



  1. Thanks, his early stuff is great. Would love to hear the album you mention at the end of this post, too

    1. I'll work it in in due course then. Some John Cage pieces that I really like on it as well.