Sunday, April 2, 2023

Nils Frahm "Music for Animals" & North American Tour: Apr 19 - 29

Returning to Seattle for the first time since 2018, Nils Frahm performs in the massive theater space of The Paramount, a far cry from the intimate setting of his west coast premiere at The Chapel Performance Space during the inaugural Substrata Festival. Yet this is in line with the tenuous balance of popularity and personal values the artist has navigated in recent years, as documented in his interviews with The Independent, "Nils Frahm: ‘NFTs are the Most Disgusting Thing on the Planet", and "Is it Classical, or Pop? Nils Frahm is Worried, but Not About That" for the New York Times, and the larger venues and audiences the composer's music has garnered in the last decade. Along the course of this trajectory toward greater popularity, Frahm returned again in 2013 as sounding board to Ólafur Arnalds, heard in their largely improvisational musical dialog during the Decibel Festival night at the Nordstrom Recital Hall. "Trance Friends" describes a similar meeting at Frahm's Durton Studio in Berlin, wherein the two artists improvised throughout the night, documented over the course of 8 hours with no overdubs and no edits, as part of the assembled "Collaborative Works". Outside of classical music, Frahm's personal well of inspiration comes from the more varied fields of jazz, fusion, minimal electronics, world music, dub, and 20th century modernism, as reflected in the selections for, "Music Is Not Sport: Nils Frahm's Favourite Albums". These varied stylistic sources and genre influences were most clearly heard on his "All Melody" album of 2018, which marked a summation of sorts of his work for the Erased Tapes label. Following quickly on the label's launch in 2007 by Robert Raths, within a year the imprint had become home to the growing body of European neoclassical and contemporary chamber music shepherded by the likes of Arnalds and Frahm.

The two artists would supply Erased Tape's breakout albums in 2010's "And They Have Escaped the Weight of Darkness", and 2012's "Felt", respectively. Bringing a new global audience to their mixing of both baroque and modern approaches to composition and unabashedly sentimental conceptual explorations.
These thematic evocations touched on in Arnald's interview for The Quietus, "Escaping the Darkness: An Ólafur Arnalds Interview". On more than just the strength of its releases, the label had become known for its attention to acoustic and production process, as detailed by Frahm in his turn with the periodical, "The Listener is the Key: The Nils Frahm Interview". The question of acoustic character and instrumental voice taken to it's extreme in Pitchfork's cheekily titled, "Nils Frahm’s Piano Is Bigger Than Yours", detailing the meeting with instrument maker David Klavins, and ensuing invitation to play the world's largest piano, the 12-foot-tall upright, known as the M370. Unlike the latest in the line of solo piano recordings, the anthology collection "Old Friends, New Friends", released on his newly founded Leiter label, Frahm's most recent, "Music for Animals", features no piano whatsoever. Centered on almost an exclusively electronic palette, this first collection of wholly new material in four years is more resonant with the characteristics of the early ambient excursions of Em:t or Rephlex Records, than it is of Claude Debussy or Erik Satie. Born in the first year of the pandemic, when life and touring was uniformly on hold, Frahm found a new course in the early months of solitude; "My constant inspiration was something as mesmerising as watching a great waterfall or the leaves on a tree in a storm." He says in the album's release statement, continuing this sentiment with; "It's good we have symphonies and music where there's a development, but a waterfall doesn't need an Act 1, 2, 3, then an outcome, and nor do the leaves on a tree in a storm. Some people like watching the leaves rustle and the branches move. This record is for them."