Nils Frahm's breakthrough record, the live album Spaces, captured everything that has since made him such a beloved artist: his delicate piano melodies, his effortless dexterity, his synth surges and digital effects. The 2013 LP distilled it all in a way that none of his studio albums could. In the years since, the Berlin-based artist has released a solo piano album, joined a band, scored films and performed other one-off pieces and collaborations. All Melody, his latest LP, returns to the core elements of his solo work while adding a few new sounds—horns, pipe organ, vocals. It's his best studio album yet.
Frahm recorded All Melody in his new studio at Funkhaus Berlin, the former GDR broadcast center turned multipurpose cultural space. Frahm is a perfectionist, and he pays close attention to reverb and room sound. The result is a plush and exquisitely produced album. It helps that many sounds on All Melody are acoustic, including an organ that Frahm sequenced like a bass synthesizer via MIDI. It makes techno-leaning tracks like "Sunson" feel even softer, as if woven with silk.
One of the first sounds you hear on All Melody is a human voice, which marks a change for Frahm. He uses a choir, horns and other instrumentation for the first time, shifting the spotlight from his piano playing to the overall compositions. The results are usually fantastic—on "Human Range," Robert Koch's trumpet emits pseudo-verbal inflections that recall Arve Henriksen. Horns act like gentle sighs underlining the melodies on "Sunson," while vocals add a breathy human dimension to "Kaleidoscope," painting in colours Frahm has scarcely used before.
Frahm's solo moments are as arresting as they've ever been. A constant tinkerer, he manipulates the innards of the piano to achieve a range of different sounds. You can hear the soft thud of piano strings on "My Friend The Forest" and a gentle rustling on "Forever Changeless." Both songs are relatively simple piano compositions enhanced by Frahm's playing style. It can feel both casually virtuosic and just slightly askew—not funky, exactly, but equally far from traditional classical playing.
All Melody is remarkably well-rounded. It's not a techno album, it's not a classical album and it's not an ambient album, but it at times resembles all three. In recent years, by having focusing so much on touring, Frahm earned a better understanding of what makes his music tick, and how his music connects with his audience. For All Melody, he didn't just try to channel the energy of his live performances. He brought that feeling of space, warmth and human connection into the studio with him.
Tracklist01. The Whole Universe Wants To Be Touched
03. A Place
04. My Friend The Forest
05. Human Range
06. Forever Changeless
07. All Melody
10. Fundamental Values
12. Harm Hymn