Nils Frahm’s work lives within the grey space between ambient, neoclassical, and different gossamer kinds of experimental music. The Berlin-based composer and producer’s output tends to recall Philip Glass and Aphex Twin in equal measure, however he has launched the whole lot from dubby downtempo to theater scores. Although he performs on a battery of synthesizers, keyboards, and digital gizmos, he’s most intently related to the piano, each as a performer—final yr’s Outdated Mates, New Mates was simply the most recent in a protracted line of solo piano recordings—and because the founding father of Piano Day, a global celebration of the instrument. However his new album, Music for Animals, options no piano in any respect. Centered on a largely digital palette, Frahm’s first assortment of contemporary materials in 4 years is extra evocative of Warp Data than it’s of Erik Satie.
Frahm started recording Music for Animals through the first yr of the pandemic, when lockdowns put a lot of every day life on maintain, and he appears to have discovered inspiration within the solitude. His tempos are uniformly sluggish, his monitor lengths lengthy—4 songs run greater than 20 minutes apiece—and his patterns repetitive; he’s clearly in no hurry to get wherever. His persistence is palpable on “Stepping Stone,” the place ethereal drones are layered with jagged washes of glass harmonica performed by his spouse, Nina. Her contributions inject a welcome spirit of collaboration into the in any other case introverted endeavor, which generally dangers taking part in prefer it was conceived with out an viewers in thoughts.
As is the case with most of Frahm’s music, the items listed below are elegant and eminently tasteful, if sometimes slightly too buttoned up. “Sheep in Black and White” demonstrates his penchant for tranquility, stretching out a tentative synth riff that slowly disintegrates over the course of 24 minutes. “World of Squares” offsets lush monophonic synths with cloudy strings in a manner that’s harking back to a very delicate pressure of ’90s ambient techno. Music For Animals is meditative and sprawling. However an essence of one thing cinematically sinister darts beneath its frosty floor, and this darkish edge proves to be one in all its extra alluring elements.
Nonetheless, at greater than three hours lengthy, Music for Animals is tough to digest in its entirety; there’s a positive line between affected person and boring. Frahm’s prolonged monitor lengths are presumably meant to foster immersion, however after some time, they arrive to look indulgent. For all of the sumptuousness of his supplies, there’s not sufficient taking place to advantage stretching them out so lengthy; sitting with Frahm’s airtight album can really feel like watching exquisitely hued paint dry.
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