2011’s Felt was created when, Frahm glued dampening felt to the hammers of his piano, to avoid annoying his neighbours when recording late at night. Whereas Screws was written and recorded when Frahm had a broken thumb – music composed for nine fingers.
Frahm’s new album, All Melody, came into being when he was offered a new studio space in Saal 3, part of the historically East German Funkhaus building. Frahm spent two years stripping the place, and building his “dream” studio. As the press release states, “[Nils’] new album is born out of the freedom that his new environment provided, allowing Nils to explore without any restrictions and to keep it All about the Melody.”
The term “All about the Melody”, is obviously cringe inducing, but it does raise a good point – Frahm is obsessed with melody on this album.
Although it may seem paradoxical to criticise and album for being too melodious, Frahm takes it almost to the point of parody. He repeatedly returns to laborious piano “moods” (tracks like ‘Forever Changeless’ and ‘Fundamental Values’) and innocuous choral musings. These moments of supposed clarity end up getting lost in the album’s continually shifting atmosphere.
While Frahm’s previous records like Felt and Solo were indebted to Erik Satie’s furniture music in their repetitive nature and use as cerebral backdrop, All Melody embarks on a largely new direction for Frahm. Post-techno-cum Tangerine Dream, it unfortunately ends up resembling a mid-2000s car advert. Which is maybe what Frahm, like Moby before him, is aiming for with some tracks – marketability.
There are points of enjoyment scattered throughout the record. It is produced excellently and this is clearly the result of Frahm’s intense work into his new studio. And, All Melody is incredibly easy to lose yourself in. At around an hour and ten minutes, it’s an expansive work which encourages close listening, especially on its closing track, “Harm Hymn”, a meditative piece constructed of chords played on a harmonium. This is the best track on the album – harkening back to tracks like ’Plenty Harmonium’ on Aphex Twin’s Druqks – the employing of organic instrumentation, to such a large extent, by electronic artists.
It’s frustrating hearing these moments of excellence scattered throughout Frahm’s discography, never piecing themselves together for a fleshed-out project. The only consolidation being that Frahm’s might get it right on his next release.
Words: Alex Weston-Noond