As modern composer Nils Frahm is known for his different ways of recording an album, So I decided to try an experiment and listen to All Melody on different devices.
Attempt 1 – Playing on a laptop
This was a complete failure, the only sounds that emerged were the electronic ones.
Attempt 2 – Playing the album on a tiny portable stereo
Not too bad. once again certain sounds sounded weak but I got an idea of the basic structure of the album.
Attempt 3 – Playing the album on my discman with headphones ( yes I still own one)
Excellent. Every detail stood out, I could hear the melodies and I was able to concentrate on the music.
Other than Frahm’s rather excellent Late Night Tales mix, I have never heard a proper album by this composer so I was pleased when it was announced as the core album for the month of February by the always excellent Rough Trade Album Club. I need an album that takes me out of my indie rock comfort zone.
I know much has been said about the recording of this album: mostly done in one take, built a studio, replaced certain instruments with others, including toys in order to fool listeners. By not having an overall concept, Frahm’s managed to let all the restrictions he put on himself in the past (obviously excluding the Screws album, where he broke his piano playing fingers and had to improvise) and create a more relaxed album.
All Melody is a song cycle. Repetitive motifs weave in and out of sparse piano based tracks, some electronic ones and then there are choirs. Frahm always keeps things interesting by adding new instruments to the mix. Sometimes you’ll hear a flute, clarinet or a marimba. As the album’s title states there is an emphasis on melody but none of these tracks are instant earworms. These twelve tracks need time for their presence to be felt. Saying that the second I heard the album in my earphones I was naggingly hooked. It is no exaggeration that I am still playing All Melody at any opportunity I get and with each spin yields new discoveries. However the album has to be taken as a whole. It’s not easy to sit through a 75 minute album but this type of music demands that you take time to listen to it and it is rewarding.
It’s strange how these instrumentals manage to feel intimate and personal yet retain a playful atmosphere. I cannot say that this is Frahm’s best album as I have not heard enough but I can definitely say that All Melody is a piece of work that will resonate with you for a very long time.