Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Nils Frahm - Felt (2011)

Fingers crossed we've now seen the last of a particularly cold winter, at least round these parts - and here's the perfect album to announce the coming of spring.  Nils Frahm's first great full-length album of piano based sound exploration starts with the wonderful Keep, sounding like a finally defrosted country stream in full flow as piano, subtle electronics and I think marimba and/or xylophone combine into a kind of Steve-Reich-in-minature thing of beauty.

After this, Felt gets right down to business in letting every possible sound of the piano and its ambient environment breathe and fill out the sonic landscape.  This is where Nils got right in to having absolutely everything miked up - the insides of the piano (often prepared with the titular sheets of felt, so as not to disturb his neighbours at night), the room ambience, his own breathing and body movements - at first listen, this can seem a bit much to some ears accustomed to these extraneous sounds being excluded, but they're fully regarded as part of the music here.

Once you've got accustomed to the slightly odd sound of the piano hammers - at least, that was my initial sticking point - this method of recording enhances every track.  The gorgeous stillness of Less and Pause, the gentle rhythms of Familiar, the Erik Satie-Harold Budd-continuum loveliness of Kind - all become amplified not just sonically, but in meaning and importance, as if being allowed to witness music at a microscopic level, with previously unseen inner workings bursting into life.

As Old Thought progresses from melancholy harmonium into more xylophone and the subtlest of synth sequences, the formula seems to have been perfected - but just wait until the closing track More.  Memorably reworked as part of an epic blowout on Spaces, this original is all the more stunning for witnessing its introductory flights of notes and slow middle section up close.

mega / zippy

2 comments:

  1. Now this sounds like something my ears can dig into! Thanks!

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  2. Thanks for this. I was curious about him, and getting more into piano.

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