The universe is making music all the time

Posts Tagged ‘Nonkeen

Chosen One: Nils Frahm

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“It is something of a knowing that I should not ask more from the universe than this, it’s a little bit of a humbleness to see when something was really good and you shouldn’t ask for more.”

—Nils Frahm 

Words: Mark Carry


The first day in July 2016 marked a significant moment in Nils Frahm’s storied career. Accurately billed as “a most ambitious concert”, the peerless German composer performed an enthralling three-hour set in London’s Barbican (as part of Frahm’s curated festival “Possibly Colliding”). Not only was this a celebration of the Berlin-based musician’s cherished songbook – and the boundless, magical force of music as a whole – but a beautiful glimpse into the slipstream of music that would soon surface. Forward eighteen months to the eagerly awaited seventh studio album “All Melody”, which undoubtedly marks Frahm’s most ambitious and captivating work to date. A further evolution of “Spaces” (its predecessor) whose twelve sublime compositions – meticulously crafted by this singular sound sculptor – unfolds a musical experience of remarkable depth and magnitude.

The immense beauty – and immensity – of the far-reaching soundscapes dotted across “All Melody”s musical landscape is a joy to savour. A myriad of sacred tones are effortlessly spliced together like that of the double helix pattern of each DNA molecule found inside our cells. It is as if a towering composition like “Sunson” unfolds, mutates, and transforms before your very eyes: the soaring juno synthesizer is melded gorgeously with the otherworldly sounds of the handmade pipe organ. The seamless array of colours and textures creates an empowering ripple flow of emotions. Choral odysseys dissolve into this vast sea of forgotten dreams. As the piece continually builds, the interlinked rhythms are forever over-lapping; magical moments within moments are captured at each and every pulse.

Modern-classical, dub and avant pop spheres are masterfully blended together on “A Place”. The inner dialogue between the components (choir, strings, percussion, synthesizer, and rhodes) creates a deeply bewitching symphony of celestial sounds. How the female voice is mixed with the luminescent juno synthesizer provides a significant milestone in “All Melody’s mind-bending oeuvre. Gripping dub beats awash with soul-stirring strings. The sonic terrain has expanded, almost exponentially. It feels as if a deep symbiosis exists between all of its vital elements; each one inter-dependent of one another, reacting, breathing and growing as the loop drifts forever into the ether of unknown dimensions.

More breathtaking synthesizer loops fills the human space of “All Melody”, not least the album’s glorious title-track. Thinking back to “Spaces” and the timeless voyage of “Says” felt a vital – almost ground-breaking – moment in Frahm’s ever searching mind. In similar fashion to “Says”, the synthesizer loop of “All Melody” feels as if it could go on forever: letting it live and breathe as long as it needs to. A windswept beauty and total radiance is somehow enclosed within the series of oscillations and hypnotic pulses. The concept of infinity becomes embedded deep within the composition’s framework as the bass marimba and piano swirls into the stratosphere.

The possibilities are endless. “#2” fades in – almost subliminally – as the embers of “All Melody” gradually dissolve. Techno bliss is masterfully etched across the sprawling canvas of synthesizer arrangements, creating, in turn, psychedelic dreams orbiting the furthest reaches of one’s inner consciousness. The seductive techno pattern serves the rhythmic pulse – or vital heart beat – supplying the flow of ambient-embedded rapture to the precious energy flow.

The album’s penultimate track “Kaleidoscope” conveys the visionary nature of Frahm’s music: the pattern of the interwoven elements (choir, organ and synthesizer) is constantly changing; forever in motion and altering in sequence (in turn, generating endless possibilities). The immaculate exploration feels at once ancient and utterly contemporary; a joyously uplifting creation with its dazzling ebb and flow akin to a river finding its sea.

Fundamental Values” shares the rich musical timbre of Frahm’s stunning “Victoria” soundtrack, mapping Victoria’s next steps, as she walks down the Berlin streets to freedom. The pristine instrumentation of cello and trumpet melts alongside Frahm’s angelic piano tones. How the introspective moments of “Human Range” continually blossoms – with ethereal jazz inflections – and continually evolves demonstrates once again the transformative power of the German musician’s divine soundscapes.

All Melody” is a defining record for the ages. This is a journey into sound.

‘All Melody’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

For Nils Frahm’s upcoming shows visit HERE.

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Interview with Nils Frahm.

Congratulations Nils on the latest album ‘All Melody’, which is an utter masterpiece. One of my first thoughts of the album was how it reflects that special “Possibly Colliding” festival in London last year and the album almost epitomizes that entire night with the endless magical moments captured during that particular live performance. And just how the live energy and performances captured in these new recordings too, so it feels like an evolution of ‘Spaces’?

Nils Frahm: Basically yeah, it is a little bit of a more controlled version of the live take and the idea was to just make the music together in a live setting and not just record everything one after the other. In my other studio at home, I was recording more like piano (and next thing, next thing) so it was like all the other records that I’ve done: they were pretty limited in the possibilities of doing it at once. And now with the Funkhaus I had the space to set everything up and just do it (like you’ve seen tonight) and basically just record that and do it every day and just try out things and that was the process: hands on, all the equipment ready basically and then just go with whatever is fun. That was important to me because I knew I would not only like get material for an album out of this but I knew I would also already know my workstation for the shows, which would come later. So, I was basically spending two years within the two U-shaped keyboard towers, practicing; that was the aim behind it.

As a listener, it’s fascinating to think of the sum of the hours and the vast sea of ideas that must have been circulating in your mind over these years. The fact that you’re continually almost going back and refining your ideas where you very much had time on your side, was it a sense that you felt you were re-discovering elements of ideas and then gradually over time it’s almost like a metamorphosis in the sense it’s still ongoing in your head, almost like an infinite process?

NF: Well, the songs I don’t play live: they are done but the songs that I play live will keep on developing and the songs I decide to not play live they are left alone; they’re like what they are. When I bring my studio on tour, I’m doing it on purpose; I have to make it happen every night again as if it was the recording session for the album. So you have the chance to re-do it, re-think it and change it every day and so it does happen: this metamorphosis, it’s mutating basically over every single gig, it’s fun. And after one or two years, the song turns into something finished yet again. This happened with the ‘Spaces’ versions of the songs I had on old albums and they turned into other versions and so on. So, I think I’m not really a composer, I’m more like a musical landscaper and it’s a little bit like a gardener: you just set up a garden and then after one year it looks completely different and then you can just do something else with it. it’s not really the point to finish a song; the point is to show that the song needs the heart and the soul and that it usually the same for the person playing and I think this is what I want to transport in a song, is exactly that essence, it needs a host – every song needs a host, otherwise it’s not a human transmission.

I love the idea that you suddenly have all these new colours you’re working with, it’s immediately apparent – even on the first listen of the album – it’s almost like you have found your voice in one way. For example, the addition of the voices and choral element in particular but in general, it’s more the extremes of the album: the intensity and noise and electronics and like a deafening pitch in contrast to the really quiet, sparse and beautiful piano; you’ve got this spectrum fully there on this record.

NF: Everything I was trying in the last ten years I could do in a much easier and better way in that new building and that new environment and obviously I was basically waiting for that moment to do it just right. I knew that before I didn’t have the possibilities to do that record so I never tried it but I was not able to hide from it any longer because I was at the position where I could afford a studio, where I could afford all these things and so basically it felt like I had no excuse to sit in my bedroom anymore – I’m not playing in front of thirty people, I’m having a thing going here – and now when I don’t go into the studio and make it like really, really good (as good as you can) then I’m hiding from the challenge so I felt like I have to do it, I have to go into the perfect studio and do the perfect sounding album somehow; that’s what I felt like, I have to do it now. That’s the only way I thought about it was just to get all the dynamics in there, get all the ideas recorded in the right way so the sounds and timbres really come out and all of the things I really feel like it’s important for the music also to appear in the music and so that was the idea behind it.

A piece that epitomizes just that is ‘Sunson’. It is these elements of the female voice, electronics, pipe organ and the woodwind and just how such a hypnotic spell is created but it’s more a feeling that the piece could go on forever; it might be eight or nine minutes long but you want it to go on and on as there is so much detail embedded deep within the piece itself.

NF: Thank you, I like that piece a lot because there is so many rhythms inter-linking and depending on each other that all sound weird and funny if they don’t come together and that makes it so interesting. The interplay between the funny sounding little objects flying around just in its combination; they form a whole, they find ground and the chaos forms into a steady flow. I think that it’s not boring to listen to because there’s always something that’s changing because the pieces are like my live shows, I use the filters so there is no loops and there is no chopped parts of anything: everything is a performance. The repetitions don’t feel like staggering repetitions but it feels like an ongoing flow. The first thing that I look out for is like: Is it boring after thirty minutes? Is it boring after one hour? Or can I just go on and on and on? And I’m looking for the things which never go out of juice, like ‘All Melody’ and ‘Says’, these are all basically loops which feel like they could just be there forever and then so not every loop can do that, certain loops don’t have that potential. So, I’m a little bit like a detective for these repetitions which don’t really feel like it’s repeating in a bad way.


That’s exactly as a listener you feel listening to ‘All Melody’ it’s like everything rests on your deft hands and everything is happening in real-time or in the moment. So, you’re waiting for all these moments to come in but I love just how all these many elements dissolve or melt together. And in your head, I can imagine it’s like a symphony and that you’re almost like the conductor in the sense that you have all these different sounds and elements but you have to know when to add, when to leave out, and so on. For instance, the electronics and when some of those low bass registers come in – during a piece – it’s that feeling when it suddenly comes in. In a way, it’s more like the work of an electronic producer that it’s the art of sound is like the bottom line of everything really?

NF: Basically for me I feel like that’s what drives my boat, it’s just to make my speakers in the studio dense with whatever I’m trying there to just get a beautiful sound. I mean I don’t like too pretty and too sweet things, it just needs to have the right balance so I just feel like it’s something that makes you feel addicted. I think music for me has a very animalistic and almost like a tribal spell on me. When I’m deeply in the concert and in the music, I am turning into something that is not exactly civilized; I’m not that polite, well-risen gent who is just like behaving or anything, I’m just going for my tribal instincts basically. I think this is where my ideas come from: it’s from a very non-intellectual route, something which is very ancient which I like to get in touch with. And then afterwards, I think intellectually about what I’m doing and out of the process of reflecting upon it, I also get ideas but what is really important for me is to get into the trance of making music and it happens when I play piano, it happens when I play synthesizers. It’s all the same thing for me because it creates the same family of emotions but obviously it’s a different essential experience for me to play a quiet piano piece and then banging with toilet brushes on the piano, it’s exactly the spectrum between the two which makes it tactile.

I just want to experience physics in all its ways, like from the very tiny wave to the very big wave and everything in between. I think exposing yourself to that for me is where all my next ideas for the next note is coming from. I have to resonate with my instruments, I must have a certain quality of sound, I need a certain tone to get inspired; otherwise I cannot fall into the music. When I’m making music I’m just finding the jump of point from the sound to start my real ideas. It’s a little bit like I cannot work when there is not a certain set of tools is there and then I’m just like no, this is not for me. When a certain thing works (like an instrument is nicely tuned or prepared or sounds really nice) then I get all these ideas but I cannot start with a digital piano and somebody tells me “now compose” then nothing inspires me. So everything that inspires me is purely tone and they almost numb my intellect and activate the animal in me almost.

A beautiful story within this narrative of ‘All Melody’ is how you discovered this little Danish piano. Like you say, I’m sure it must have spoken to you so strongly that you suddenly found inspiration from this instrument, almost like a gateway or a doorway that it suddenly launches all of these ideas and sounds?

NF: It is very important for me to have it with me, to play the sounds exactly on the same instrument I played it for the record. I tried it on other pianos which were a little bit easier to travel with and more stable (and this is a little complicated to tune or they are really hard to tune). But in the end we went for the Danish one because the sounds didn’t sound right on any other instrument, it didn’t feel like I should play these songs on another instrument – on another instrument I should play other songs; songs I write for that instrument. So I think this is the complicated side of my work is that I really dedicate my ideas to a physical set of things (which can be an instrument), I try to understand it, I try to build a relationship and I try to have so much empathy with it (which not always works) but when it works I just get under the skin of the instrument and get inside it and tickle it in a way, which is the only way and I strongly think like that and then I just make that piece and then I decide this is it. Of course there’s many other things I could have done but for me, then playing the piece on another instrument is not always working because I fine-tuned my interaction with it almost to a fair balance that the instrument does a lot of things by itself – I just activate it and I try to open the instrument basically.

And that usually is a different approach to other composers; they basically think of a melody, they write the melody down and somebody has to play the melody. It would be really difficult for me to write a melody and then somebody just plays it in their way because how you play the melody and exactly how is the only thing I care about. It needs to fit the melody, otherwise I don’t care about the melody itself; it just needs to harmonize with how the melody is played and it’s all about how it is played. And so composing for other musicians is a little bit of a bad process for me because I will always try to explain to other musicians how they should play it and I will always feel like, if I could only do it myself. And so you are right, I am a little bit like a conductor and I try to work with sounds I get into and once I feel like I activated the sounds, I am inside the instrument basically; this is the moment where I hit record. And with the other musicians in the session it was interesting because a lot of the things they played was not what I felt I wanted to hear but they played much, much more than I used. So I let them play, I let them play, I let them play and then out of sixty minutes these thirty seconds are just pure magic. I feel like it was still my process to decide for that thing and use it and then to put it there and then so I still had the feeling to get into the skin even of what the other people play. For me it is very important to have control over the sounds otherwise I’m lost basically.

All these elements that are contributed by your friends and this idea that it’s this thirty seconds of magic, I just love this minimal aspect to the music and how it’s almost spliced together. But the subtle detail  inside it all; it’s never like A, B, C but it’s more after repeated listening, there are gorgeous shades of all these different colours (like the bass marimba for example) it feels like a ripple.

NF: The sequencing was very important and I feel only if that is flawless. I’ll give you an image: only if all the ripples on top of the lake disappear you can see the surface of the lake and even if the tiniest ripples are there you can see only the surface of the water. And so for me it needed to come to a point of perfection, otherwise these compositions would not work, they would fall apart: they are only tied together by the marriage of vision of tone, timbre, how it’s played and everything in a wishful way which I cannot explain. But I can only intuitively get there and then I can say, oh this is it, this is what I wanted to do; I had no idea before – I never know what I want to do next – but I get naturally attracted just by accident, by the framework of my tools I set around me basically. Everything which is annoying me like synthesizers which make sounds that are horrible for me, I never use them. I only use instruments which always sound charming no matter what you do with them, anything which can sound like a pain in the ass flies out. And so I have some very funny rules to set up the framework for myself so I know what to do next because I never think of it.


Ancient is a word that epitomizes the song ‘Kaleidoscope’. Again, the sequencing and how it’s there as the penultimate track. It’s the multitude of feelings and this sense of a journey that the listener goes on. The harmony aspect of ‘Kaleidoscope’ creates that hypnotic spell again, there’s almost a symbiosis between all your instruments and the rest of the instrumentation. You feel like there is an energy reacting off all these different layers of sounds and elements.

NF: I know what you mean, I just feel like it is all of these lucky moments and I’m just pretty relaxed when it comes to choosing the right moments. I’m messy basically because I record everything: I record every single show, I have terabytes of music flying around and listening through all of that again and just keeping your head clear and deciding out of forty takes, which take is the right one is the real challenge to be honest. So I basically keep recording and the most of the stuff that I am doing is not right and then all of a sudden – maybe by chance – something really works out well and then just being awake and seeing it happening and like ‘oh this is what I want’. I was trying eight hours and then in twelve minutes; I can use all these twelve minutes, that’s the core of my composition. I could have never planned it but I feel like this is the nice thing you can rely on having the feeling for the right moment in that sense and so I can delete everything else and you will never hear it again, this is it. And this was for ‘Spaces’ already, with Nonkeen and all these projects I had to go through hours and hours of music and deciding to delete all the rest takes a little bit of courage so to say. And I know a lot of musicians who really have a hard time deciding and they just rather keep three, four, five versions and until the end they go back and forth. And for me it’s very easy to know OK, this was a moment, it will be impossible for me to make a better version now that I have this version.

It is something of a knowing that I should not ask more from the universe than this, it’s a little bit of a humbleness to see when something was really good and you shouldn’t ask for more. This is where I have to say that I am not a perfectionist because a perfectionism is only about creating the framework. But when I see like by accident that something just magically worked out and then I try to be humble and be like OK don’t fight with the gods up there and try to do it better because when too perfect lieber Gott böse or the god is angry. So, this is my philosophy. ‘Kaleidoscope’ is a jam – completely a jam – and I felt like ‘Ahh what if I do it again?’ but I knew I could never create that energy or that sound again so I mixed just that improvisation basically. I never tried to recreate the patch because it was a complete, complicated, one-in-a-lifetime situation where all the things were doing something crazy. And then you should not waste your time by trying to do it again, it would just be an unpleasant experience. I feel like I know how to keep my workflow joyful that way, I just don’t go down these roads where there’s like sweat and fight and fight and fight. I try to keep myself in a happy place because this is only where I can worship the gods when I am happy with myself or when I am at peace with myself or I make an acceptance at least, I make the better work as if I’m trying to be better, you know that is not a good emotion.

It is that intuitive quality to the music that’s so apparent. I just love how there is this flow of energy within the songs, like the first notes of choir and the silence and sound of people almost coming together. And how ‘All Melody’ and ‘#2’ is like the beginning of the second half, it’s almost like the ultimate DJ mix in some ways.

NF: It’s like this legendary mixtape that somebody put together and found all these moments somewhere and blended them in this magical way and it’s like this tape that somebody has made and you’re just wondering ‘how cool is that?’ And I feel like I have a lot of these tapes at home, made by friends which became legendary mixtapes which I distributed and got an mp3 and all of my friends know them. It’s like these random cassettes, some of them were in my father’s car; just weird mixes, blend of jazz tunes and I just like that idea of hearing many different things interconnecting basically. Or seeing that everything is context when you just put a track after that track, the tracks change basically their identity only because they are next to each other. And when you think that further and think about the playlists on spotify and all the algorithms that are creating music, I mean exactly what is happening there is changing the identity and the core of each track which is inside that playlist. And I think all these things are so important to me and I want to have more control over music. This is why I am just saying this is the album and everyone talks about the album now and I love this because no one talks about one track; it is the album experience and we can look into a pretty deep landscape of music and just get all these ideas from.

This is exactly my point to do something which is in a broader sense inspiring and this is ‘All Melody’ for me, trying to encourage whatever is out there to be original or make the impossible blend. And to showcase that only because it’s different it doesn’t need to hurt your ears; that is also important, it can sound tactile and interesting and delightful even if the music is pretty abstract somehow. And I feel like this is also a challenge for me to make that work, just to make it so attractive even if what I’m making musically there is thinking around the corner a little bit rather than just make it attractive enough so you always want to know it more or something. This is what I associate with my favourite albums of all time: Radiohead, Portishead, Massive Attack; when these albums came out they didn’t only sound like weird, abstract hard to get stuff, it was different, completely new and in some way what they did there was – and also Air – it was different and like ‘I know it somehow but I don’t know it’, it was familiar in a weird way but totally new and it sounds great. These are the records that I will never forget and there are loads of other great and interesting music and charming music – and I’m like a geek like you of course – not only because a record is recorded bad I dismiss it, that’s totally bullshit, when a performance is great you just deal with whatever recording and so on. When you choose whatever you want to do I felt like let’s try to just get everything a little better on this record, let everything be a tiny bit better, that was my dream.


Another special moment on the album is ‘Human Range’. Again as a listener, it’s full of that surprise element in the best possible way, this idea that you never know exactly what is coming at you (and that’s what defines all these great records). Suddenly there is a jazz and ethereal dimension like an ECM catalogue, but it all makes complete sense. How this track rises and is always building throughout.

NF: That was not a complicated composition because that was a track where I started basically with a piano and I had these chords [mimicking the piano line] and I liked the two chords. And on the piano I didn’t feel like I could make that piece, it felt like it was not necessarily a piano piece. So I thought I would programme a bass – and I programmed it very low and short  [mimicing bassline] – and I liked that, I was sitting in my room and I could hear the reverb of these short bass notes and I felt like, oh this is much more interesting. So basically I sequenced a little bit with the organ and the bass and I only recorded the little percussive sounds of the bass and kept it like that. And then whenever another musician came, I said ‘Let’s improvise something on that’ and so when the choir came, I just composed these chords (like start really quiet and then go loud and so I kept that) and the percussion player and the cello came and the trumpet player came and so on. We talked about the progression each time again and then the last forty seconds I just let them play improvised basically and it all creates this funny little ending.

And every musician played at least twenty/thirty takes before I felt like ‘now I feel it’ because they all played too much, I left these little drops and then somebody leaves a drop here and there but no one should really be in the forefront. So in the end it is all evenly dropping and so everybody felt they should finish the song with their part and they were trying to finish it off. And the last overdub that I have done was trumpet player and I told the trumpet player, ‘Look, you have to finish it off’ it was like we left this carpet, this fluffy nice little sound carpet for you and now tie this red thread in there. And he went into the recording room and played the first take of the day – I may have cut out twenty/thirty percent and moved one or two bits but that was it – and I was so impressed because I had no idea how I should have made that melody with my instruments, I didn’t hear it but he, with his trumpet, could find that spot where he was really leading the whole ensemble and all of a sudden it was like yeah, this is what I was waiting for. So it was one of those happy-go-lucky things that you can’t plan.

The challenge of inter-connecting each piece on the album and piecing together the many sections within a piece, was it a case that a lot was unlocked by improvisation?

NF: I think that’s the more composing part is to leave out what you don’t want to use and what comes before is just some way of improvising or meditating over an idea. It’s a little bit like fishing for the right moment, my philosophy is that a lot of things could come together in a positive way and that is they’re interlinked and then I see it as like these clay with four leaves and you see a lot with three leaves and there’s one with four. And basically I try to realize that in my music is that I just feel like it was the right sound, it was the right moment, the right touch, the right whatever and then maybe there was even a creak in the right moment. Sometimes you have these moments where you feel like ‘Aah! This is it’ and then I can feel like it’s a little bit like a false belief obviously but I feel like these birds are with me, I got a message, I like this and then I feel like I am having a relationship with that idea and with that moment. And then I treasure it and it’s like what I said before, I’m pretty stubborn believing like this is the moment, this is my big fortune just to have that decisiveness. It means that I have to numb myself and to blind myself over other possibilities but on the other hand the essence of why I am so progressive – like always doing, doing, doing – because if I would be hesitant and indecisive about if I should use this or not then I think nothing would get ready and nothing would ever come out. It is fortunately not leaving me and it didn’t leave me on this record like the intuition that I have that material and I’ve worked a long time on it and now it’s time to just go with the best you’ve done. And not thinking like ‘No, I wanted something else, throw everything away’ I think that would have done the material injustice.

Of course, I can say now that the record is completely something else than I expected and on the other hand what did I expect? I expected to hear some tracks that I couldn’t have planned, I expected to hear some tracks that I wanted to record (‘All Melody’ and ‘#2’) and I expected to hear some choir on there because I planned to record choir and so on. So basically it is the record I wanted to make and now in many ways when I play the tracks live, I play them all the time, they become a little bit of a closed body, all of a sudden you really make memories with that song and then the song develops an even broader identity because you feel like you are on the road with it and it’s always there and it’s always a little different (like everybody) and the song becomes a person and even the listeners – after a couple of years when you play the song a lot of times – you play a song and then they clap; it became something, the song has character and so what I really like is just to see how ‘All Melody’ out of this, I really enjoy like knowing when it’s released, it’s there now and then seeing OK it’s two hours ago, by now people have heard it once, let’s see what they say. And already people after thirty minutes are like posting things saying it’s great and I feel like I have listened to it for one and a half years basically and I’m pretty tired of it to be honest and now people hear it for the first time and it’s interesting to see people’s opinions after hearing it one time and how the opinion in maybe five, six, seven, fifteen or twenty years might be completely different. It’s basically like modelling a wine and putting it somewhere and seeing what happens to it. On that level I have a very good feeling with the record because I feel it is absolutely my identity; I can find myself in there. It’s almost like no other record that I have put out, I’m pretty strongly behind this one because I also think that it has humour and it is in a way also sad and melancholic. And in other ways it is exactly these little moments where people walk in and somebody is late and then the choir starts, like all these things I love.

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‘A Place’ has a playful and inventive quality to it where there’s a real bright pop element shining throughout and especially how the female voice is blended so masterfully with the electronic elements. Even if you isolated just that…

NF: I love this. This is what I was hoping for, I wanted to mix natural vocalists with juno sounds basically for that record and this was my moment where I felt like I can only hear synthesizer and them and it was just a beautiful and joyful experience. It feels like the synthesizer changes the voice and the voices changes the synthesizer to a strange degree where it becomes this phenomenon almost. And that was the core of the song and the rest was woven around numberless overdubs and compositional ideas. I had the kick drum in there, I had this going on, I had that going on. That was the song that always got re-shaped and in the end it magically fell into place in its most complex form as it is in the record now because as a composition and as a second song, it has a weird ending and this and that happening and exotic moments with exotic instruments playing exotic things. But I felt like this is something that has to be exactly like that and then it works.

And I tried to play it for the live show but it doesn’t work, it just easily falls apart. It’s not a stable song. Certain musical experiences can be pretty stable and they even sound good from a little radio in a distance and other musical experiences are more unstable and just need to be experienced in a certain way and it plays with something which has to be experienced in the right way then it only reveals something, which I like a lot. If it’s not exactly experienced like it is on the record then it falls easily apart. It’s an unstable, exotic piece which I feel like would stay exactly like that because any other version wouldn’t work. And then there’s other pieces of mine where I feel like yeah this is a good version but I think I could even play a better one someday but I don’t know why and then I keep on playing it. So I basically have two sets of ideas: certain things are basically more constructed and then they are just conserved in this one documented version and that is the piece and other ideas are transformative ideas which I basically meditate over and I feel like I grow on them when I keep playing them.

That must be the joy of playing the live shows when you suddenly have these new songs but also how you incorporate the older songs with the new ones. It must give you a new perspective even on the older songs you play?

NF: You heard ‘Familiar’ tonight, I changed ‘Familiar’ a bit; it was a different sound, I can’t even play it like on ‘Spaces’. I also don’t try, I always feel like I should play it in that moment and don’t try to play it as I remember as I played it.

‘Fundamental Values’ feels like it blossoms gradually as you listen to it. The piano melody feels like it’s a continuation from the ‘Victoria’ soundtrack, almost mapping her next footsteps as she walks outside the hotel and starting her new life. It definitely feels like this piece is related in some way?

NF: It was funny because it was basically this one solo piano recording I had from the ‘Victoria’ soundtrack and I kept it as an idea because we didn’t use it for the film and I kept it as an idea for the album process. And so I tried to replay it and I felt like no I can’t get that thing in there so I’d rather play a different piano on top and I played all the other instruments on top. The core of it is exactly the recording session of the ‘Victoria’ soundtrack and so very well heard.

Something that struck me from the liner notes of ‘All Melody’ was regarding the mixing of the album and how you described the need to preserve the essence of the music. I can imagine when you have spent all this time and with the knowledge you have all these magical moments captured, is there almost like a fear that you’re almost going to lose it in the sense that you grasped it one moment and will it be there again?

NF: Exactly. Certain pieces fall apart over time. Certain pieces feel great that night and the next day they already don’t feel that great anymore and you wonder like what did I do yesterday that it sounded different and so on. Other pieces stay only stable over a couple of weeks and then they start to annoy you in a certain way. So, giving me like a long time process was giving me enough time to listen to my own ideas and when I make an album I only listen to that (for that time) and not get confused. I don’t want to enjoy good music (which is other music) because I feel like I only deserve to enjoy when I do great music myself, just to fast basically. And when you lose the sketch or whatever you are working on there is also time to make it better, to mix it or to finish it or to change it and then sometimes you rescue it, you drag it back into a better direction and you make a better take and then you basically wrestle it or you just make it worse with whatever you try to change and you realize when you try it again and when you make it worse again then you know the song wins basically, it destroys you. And sometimes you just get the song in the right direction again and at some point it stabilizes again in a very good situation. When I listen to the album now I feel like I’m happy with everything. It changes for me you know, I’m still having more ideas and that I would like to change things but I know that everything is OK. And this is not always the case when I release an album. Sometimes, only two, three, four weeks later I regret certain things but now I’m really happy.

‘Harm Hymn’ is the perfect closing line for the album. Again, I love how there are these very sparse, introspective moments dotted across ‘All Melody’. Did you envision this harmonium piece to always close the album?

NF: I feel that it is a typical “Nils Frahm song” and I would have missed it if it wasn’t on the album. And if you can put it anywhere then it’s after ‘Kaleidoscope’ because it washes that high tension away and it connects with the last notes of ‘Kaleidoscope’, it has the same pace and breath and then it falls into that in a very good way. This is why I kept the piece, I have other good harmonium pieces I have recorded but it didn’t connect like that and so often when I have so many different songs I’ve done for an album, I still choose the ones that strengthen the neighbouring song, in a way which ends up then being more symphonic or a planned album listening experience. For me it’s very important to see an album as a continuous thing and it is OK to listen to certain songs just by themselves but if you listen to the whole thing it needs to make sense.

‘All Melody’ is out now on Erased Tapes.

For Nils Frahm’s upcoming shows visit HERE.






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March 7, 2018 at 12:03 pm

Chosen One: Andrea Belfi

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“I think trying to find a unique sound was my first aim always and that’s what I’m still trying to do.”

 Andrea Belfi

Words: Mark Carry

 1- Andrea Belfi - (Credit - Steve Glashier)

Italy’s Andrea Belfi is a drummer, composer and electroacoustic musician whose unique music path has continually developed and evolved throughout the 2000’s with the release of several scintillating solo works and a plethora of collaborative works (many of which have been released on the prestigious Berlin label Miasmah). The gifted Berlin-based composer’s newest solo work ‘Ore’ is his most captivating and deeply affecting bodies of work thus far that marks new independent label Float’s debut release.

Deeply hypnotic soundscapes are unleashed throughout ‘Ore’, creating, in turn, a timeless exploration in the art of repetition and variation. The opening ‘Anticline’ is a sublime dub odyssey that somehow orbits the beautiful intersection between the dub techno of Germany’s Rhythm & Sound and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry’s dub marvels at the Black Ark. Space is the place. The hugely enveloping piece continually mutates and transforms into new versions of itself as an ethereal dimension is attained at each and every turn. The synth elements – and the intricate array of divine nuances and sonic details – forges new horizons where stunning, unnerving soundscapes evoke the classic ‘Under The Skin’ score by British composer Mica Levi.

Iso’ is filled with the colours and textures of 50’s jazz music. The majestic drums drift in the ether of unknown possibilities. Certainly, this formidable creation transports the listener to Belfi’s near-mythical live solo performances. In fact, the live feel permeates throughout the aching pulse of ‘Ore’, which represents one of the hallmarks of this truly great record. Rewind twelve months and memories of witnessing the Verona-born musician’s hugely inspiring solo live set (alongside Nonkeen) at Nils Frahm’s ‘Possibly Colliding’ festival at London’s Barbican: the raw energy and sheer power of his drum playing hypnotize and enrapture that pulls you in deep akin to the gravitational pull of the earth itself.

The immediacy and pulsating energy of ‘Lead’ unfolds a rich narrative wherein drums and electronics are masterfully woven together. A fragile beauty seeps into the human space. The spectrum of enchanting sounds reveals the composer’s uncanny ability to create vast, empowering sound collages with minimal framework of drums and synthesizers. It’s the rich organic quality that exudes throughout ‘Lead’ that forges a deeply personal and otherworldly experience.

Ore’s pinnacle arrives on the shape-shifting tour-de-force ‘Ton’ with its deep bass rhythm and spectral palette, which continually expands and evolves with masterful use of delays and reverb. The brooding, cinematic atmosphere could depict the neon-lit city skyline of a distant utopia. The tempo is marvelously slowed down on the drone-infused ambient cycle ‘Syncline’ with its gorgeous ebb and flow of divine textures and gradual, swirling rhythms. The horizon is upon us.

‘Ore’ is released on Friday, May 26th via Float.

 2- Andrea Belfi - (Credit - Steve Glashier)

Interview with Andrea Belfi.


Congratulations on your new solo release ‘Ore’, it’s really incredible. I’d love for you to discuss the making of the new music? As a listener, it’s lovely to hear a solo work of yours and just how much you achieve with your tools of drums and synthesizer.

Andrea Belfi: The process of creating this album lasted probably about nine months or so because basically I started recording in May. I started using a method that I developed last year, I started recording some electronic beats but just to use those beats as a metronome or a beat keeper but at the same time some sounds that could bring me to a different world while recording drum beats basically. The idea was to start composing those tracks from drum beats but using these electronic beats in order to get into the hypnotic mood. So I recorded twelve different beats – like electronic beats – that I would use as a metronome but with a sort of a mood already into it. And then I went to the recording studio and I recorded these drumbeats with Mathias Hahn who is Nils Frahm’s stage technician; he’s an incredible sound technician. While I was on tour with Nils with Nonkeen we got along pretty well together and he was saying ‘Nils is getting this new recording studio at the Funkhaus in Berlin and he’s away for a week’ [laughs] so he said ‘We should use it, you can rent it out and we can go there and record it together because I think it’s the right time to do it’. And in a way he was encouraging to do so but I was already thinking about recording a new solo album but at the same time things came together very naturally. So, I got in touch with Mathias and I had this methodology already in mind and it got together pretty naturally. So, after these drum recordings I started editing and composing but in fact the drum beats came first.

It sounds very interesting how there were many stages in order to complete the music-making process. And what makes the Funkhaus so special as a recording space?

AB: I mean somehow it’s a piece of art because it’s an art piece. I think it is one of these very well crafted, beautifully designed studios where you really feel comfortable while playing music. It’s very difficult to describe but it’s very inspiring; it’s a very inspiring sounding room and that’s what makes it so interesting and important somehow plus the decorations are also part of it. The sound there is truly amazing and it has a very nice and smooth reverb which is present but at the same time you feel it’s there but is a preponderant.

The tracks themselves, I love how the opener ‘Anticline’ it’s one of those pieces that’s quite long but it’s that space you are able to create within the piece but also the close dialogue that’s ongoing between the synthesizer parts and the drums and also how the drums keep coming back at various points.

AB: I like the fact that it’s a very minimal piece of music but there is a narrative at the same time so it’s hypnotic but it’s also dubby in a way. It’s dub music if you look at it from a dub perspective it makes sense I think because there is this hypnotic world where you flow in but at the same time there are minimal variations that keep you inside the track. I would say that the first track is probably one of the most song-oriented tracks that I have ever released as a solo artist.

Throughout the album the effect of each component whether it’s the synthesizer or drums is very powerful and feels very much like one cohesive whole.

AB: In fact when I compose my solo music I tend to think of every element as one so I’m more of a composer than a drummer. So I’m really focusing on the composition itself than just my being a drummer if you know what I mean. When I started composing the songs from the drums recordings, it’s a natural process; I create a mood and then I try to dig into that mood. And to develop the synth parts, first of all trying to be as minimal as I can and then to make sound textures – and treating them almost as a melodic element – it’s very simple because there is not many chord changes, it’s very much like drone music basically. So I tend to compose for drums and electronics in an organic way; the drums is as important as the electronic part.

Your special live performances – and one particularly was your performance with Nonkeen last year and your solo drum performances during the ‘Possibly Colliding’ festival – there’s something about the live performance that very much is captured on this album, which is obviously a great thing.

AB: You’re pointing out something very important which is the live feeling of this album and it makes a big difference from the previous production that I did before and that’s something that I really wanted to keep. In fact part of this record – track number 2 & 3 (‘Iso’ and ‘Lead’) – they were basically live compositions that I prepared these compositions for my live set. While recording the material I had two set-ups in the studio; one for the new recordings and one for the live recording so I developed a solo live set within the last two years that I’ve been playing for about two years and that’s also the solo live set that I’ve been playing for Nonkeen’s tour. So the live feeling or the person playing that was really important even when I was really producing the music and crafting the final master; that was really important to keep the live feeling of it. So you have the feeling there is one person playing in front of you even when it’s very produced music.

I’d love to know more about your current live set-up and whether your equipment has been the same over the past decade of making music?

AB: I produce all of my electronic sounds through this synthesizer called Nord Modular and it’s a Swedish synthesizer that was made in the mid-90’s through the mid-00’s; I’ve been working on it for about fifteen years now, maybe a bit more, so I developed my own sound palette. And I have controllers so I have a sampler pad which is filled with Nord Modular electronic sounds. It’s a digital modular synthesizer and for me it became like my electronic music tool basically; I have a strong relationship with it [laughs]. And of course while producing the music for the record I used also some delays and some other production tools.

Then regarding the drums, when I play live I have a simple drum kit; there is a bass drum and a snare drum, floor tom and I have one cymbal and I have some percussion that I use, it’s not a complete drum set but it’s a minimal drum set. So I’ve been using this particular brand of drums, Ludwig for about ten years now and it’s an old Ludwig Super Classic drum set from the 1960’s and that’s where I developed my own particular drum sound, I think you’ve seen it when I was playing the Barbican. So it’s a big and fat bass drum sound; it’s kind of jazzy but at the same time it can be very powerful and intense. And last year I got this deal with a new drum company called Sari – it’s a Finnish drum company – I was very interested in those drum sets because first of all they sound similar to that sound that I built through my Ludwig but at the same time they had a twist; they are very interesting drum kits because they’re very similar to early Jazz drum kit from the 1920’s for example because they’re very light and they have a very open sound and long sound and very rich with harmonics. Most of the recordings on the record are with both drum kits so it’s kind of a transition: using two different drum kits for two different kinds of feeling. For example ‘Ton’ – which is the fourth track – is made with the Sari kit. I also have a preference for old jazz cymbals which have the same kind of characteristic so not much attack, very smooth and arc; that’s what I like.

I imagine the extensive Nonkeen tour – and your solo sets opening for Nonkeen each night – must have provided a lot of inspiration for the material on ‘Ore’ in terms of ideas and material?

AB: Oh absolutely, it was very important actually. It gave me lots of ideas to work with it and it was a very inspiring tour. And it was also very hard because playing solo and Nonkeen set was pretty intense but at the same time I learned a lot from that tour especially playing my solo set on the bigger stage; that was very important because I’d been playing this solo set in smaller places where I can really control the dynamics very well and in certain places I really had to deal with dynamics in a very different way: different crowds, different dynamics basically. I mean I really want to communicate to translate my music on a different level but the most important thing is to translate my idea of music on different stages and that was a very challenging situation. Sometimes it was very challenging because maybe you’re in front of several hundred people and you got used to maybe maximum one hundred people in front of you and that makes a huge difference because you have to maybe play louder to get the attention of that amount of people and then maybe get quieter again and use the dramaturgy in a different way [laughs].

3 - Andrea Belfi - (Credit - Steve Glashier)

You have improvised a lot in your previous musical output and I loved your Miasmah-related projects you have been involved with, especially the B/B/S releases. I suppose that whole idea of having a certain chemistry with other members and musicians and improvising with your own instruments and music is something you have been developing over a long period of time?

AB: Yeah it’s been a long time since I started working with improvised music. I did my first improvised music show in 2001 actually, I remember I was playing in Verona – my hometown in Italy – I was playing this metal sculpture that a local artist made and that was my first attempt to create improvised music. And then within the last few years I’ve been playing with lots of different people and I’ve been travelling quite a lot and I’ve been playing with a lot of different improvisers; different kinds like electronic musicians. And with B/B/S it’s another improvised music project that I really like because even if we improvise, we have our own language so it’s one aspect of improvisation which is having a particular language and using it to improvise. And that’s what I do with my solo way of improvising but also I would bring this into different projects and contexts. In Nonkeen as well, I brought some of this especially while we were rehearsing actually. Before the tour started we rehearsed quite a lot in order to develop a coherent live set. I have the feeling that it helped somehow for the band to get into that territory. I mean Nonkeen used to be an improvised music band.

You feel that very much on the two Nonkeen studio records as well as much as when you see the live show. I remember you were saying before how you were inspired hugely by Ennio Morricone?

AB: It’s a huge influence. I mean everyone in Italy of my age – but not just my age – and watching Sergio Leone’s films as kids and we know these albums and tracks by heart but then I started discovering more and more of his music through the last fifteen years or so. He’s always pushing boundaries of film music into his own world, it’s really inspiring. He’s very influential on my more song-oriented music but the atmosphere he creates is just incredible and very influential on my music. There are certain albums that I love. My favourite Morricone album is Come Maddalena and there’s something on it which is so complex and so simple at the same time, it’s so beautiful; under the simplicity there is a huge complexity. I mean you can say this about a lot of music but I think that’s the thing I really like about Ennio Morricone. He has a unique sound; that’s what I really like, whenever you listen to some of Morricone’s music you say ‘Ah,that’s him!’ and that’s what I like about artists and musicians in general when you listen to something or when you see something and you recognize a trademark: something original and compelling and at the same time it’s personal and experimental.

I get the impression you probably started playing the drums at a very young age? I’d be curious to know how you started and developed when you were younger?

AB: I started at the age of fourteen playing drums. There was this band  – friends of mine – that I used to skateboard with so it was this young crew who wanted to start their own punk band and I really wanted to join that group so I started how to play drums, I had to be pretty fast [laughs]. In terms of the learning process and also rhythmical wise, it was pretty fast rhythms so I started to take drum lessons when I was fourteen and then I had my first show at fifteen in a local pub, it was really, really exciting. In fact that’s something that I hope I will never lose; this kind of excitement about playing gigs. I mean sometimes it is not so easy to have this feeling all of the time – I play a lot of shows – but in general that’s the spirit I try to bring always on stage basically.

Then I’d been studying for a few years but I started in punk bands from fourteen and then I moved on into different directions after that. First of all, all kinds of hardcore punk; I was into that scene in the mid-90’s when I was a teenager. It was life changing. Then I moved to different strands of music and then I discovered this band Gastr del Sol: for me it’s still one of my favourite bands and in a way I really think that their combination of straight forward rock music and electroacoustic music like the weirdest experimental music is somehow I feel that’s where my music comes from. I also got to play with David Grubbs (the founding member of Gastr del Sol) I started collaborating with him back in 2009, he was based in New York but sometimes we had the chance to play together.

At the same time by the end of the 90’s I got into electronic music a lot, so Warp Music Records basically [laughs] and lots of minimalist music like La Monte Young, Charlemagne Palestine: it was nothing really about drums – sometimes it was about drums – but it was more a different type of music that I really loved in general. And I got into radical improvised music so I started combining drums and electronics. I’ve always been trying to develop new ideas through exciting music that I have discovered through the years.

That’s the cool thing listening to your solo music it’s like blurring the boundaries where it’s hard to describe the music or pin point exactly what  it is.

AB: It’s not a great business tool [laughs] not knowing what kind of music this is but in a way that’s what I like. I was trying to in my own little world to push the boundaries of the music that I knew and to make it different all the time like using references – not really doing it literally but getting inspired by certain solutions like combining field recordings and drums or electronics and drums or certain atmosphere – I think trying to find a unique sound that was my first aim always and that’s what I’m still trying to do.

Are you listening to any particular favourite records at the moment?

AB: That’s a good question actually, I mean I listen to a lot of records at the moment. I really like this sound poetry electroacoustic music by an Italian musician called Francesco Cavaliere, he’s pretty cool in his way of using sounds and narrative, it’s beautiful. I really like Mark Ernestus’s (one of the two from Rhythm & Sound) new project called Ndagga Rhythm Force, he’s producing this Senegalese band; it’s mind-blowing, very unique music. There is a musical style in Senegal called Mbalax (or Mbalakh) so he produced it in a dub way so cutting out solos and dubbing voices, it’s pretty great actually and in fact they’re playing tonight in Berlin so I might go tonight and see them playing. I’m really into Ellen Arkbro’s last solo record, Giuseppe Ielasi’s record and I’m really into Raymond Scott.

I usually listen to a lot of African music in general, I really like Congolese music; Soukous music is the style of music that was developed in the Congo in the 60’s and the 70’s, that’s a style that I really love. I really loved ‘Under The Skin’ by Mica Levi, it’s an amazing record. I like Rashid Bakr’s last two albums he did, those are amazing records and Miasmah Records’s Svarte Greiner records are beautiful. I like Sun Araw’s music, I’ve seen him play two or three times, he’s really great.

There is this cassette that Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy made, it’s called ‘Bonnie Prince Billy II’ and there are some beautiful songs there. I’ve been listening a lot to Bill Callahan’s music. Mario Batkovic’s accordion music is really beautiful and a really inspiring record [self-titled record via Invada Records]. I listen to a lot of Sun Ra’s music. There’s a record that I really like called ‘The Union’ by Elton John and Leon Russell and was produced by T Bone Burnett’ it’s amazingly produced and there are two drummers that I really love who are on there: Jim Keltner and Jay Bellerose who are both crazy drummers. They have the same kind of feeling, in fact I really love those two drummers because they have this kind of blues feeling on drums with a rich full sound but very loose, it’s very musical so it’s not like straight and square, they sing in a way.

I’m also playing in July with Circuit Des Yeux, a singer-songwriter from the U.S. I’m playing drums for her and I’ve played with her for two shows before, one in Berlin and another in Utrecht at Le Guess Who? festival. She has an incredible voice and she is a great performer so I’m really excited to listen to her next solo album; she will send it to me pretty soon as we will play some of her new songs.

Another solo artist that I really like and I’m digging his music is called Seth Frightening. He’s from New Zealand and is very interesting music; he is a big talent I would say and he has a very good sensibility for songwriting.

‘Ore’ is released on Friday, May 26th via Float.

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May 25, 2017 at 5:33 pm

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S1E7 | July mix

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July 2016 opened with world-renowned German composer Nils Frahm’s magnificent “Possibly Colliding” weekend of music at the Barbican Centre, London. Curated by Frahm, the special lineup featured live performance, conversation and film screenings where the headline act was Frahm’s monumental sold-out Barbican show, comprising his “most ambitious concert to date.”

Possibly Colliding felt not only like a celebration of the visionary artist’s cherished songbook (thus far) but rather a distillation of the most ground-breaking moments of today’s contemporary music scene. The angelic, hushed solo piano pieces were interwoven with the sprawling and sublime synthesizer-led pieces and many live collaborations – cellist Anne Müller, Nonkeen (with the addition of gifted drummer Andrea Belfi), London-based vocal ensemble Shards, and the André de Ridder-led stargaze ensemble – rendered new versions of Frahm’s towering body of work and offered new insights into the gifted composer’s sonic sphere.

During July we were delighted to be invited to participate in Irish actor Cillian Murphy’s curated IMMA Summer Party happening at the grounds of the Irish Museum of Modern Art at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin. Murphy’s music lineup featured performances by celebrated German composer and pianist Hauschka, gifted Irish fiddle player and composer Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Irish-based indie band Meltybrains? Some selections from our DJ set appear in this month’s mixtape.

Limerick-born and London-based composer Áine O’Dwyer has long been one of our most cherished and favourite contemporary musicians. O’Dwyer has released records on such independent labels as: Mie Music, Second language and Fort Evil Fruit, while her versatile talents are evident in her rich and varied recorded output to date, which have featured: live recordings for pipe organ, music for harp and voice and music for solo piano.

This year’s Le Guess Who? festival features special guest curators – including the inimitable L.A. songwriter Julia Holter – who has invited Áine O’Dwyer to this year’s lineup in Utrecht which takes place on 10–13 November 2016.

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S1E7 | July mix

To Read/listen on La Blogothèque:



01. Woodkid & Nils Frahm“Winter Morning II” (with Robert De Niro) (excerpt) (Ellis OST, Erased Tapes)
02. Peter Broderick“Carried” (Erased Tapes)
03. Nonkeen“Diving Platform” (R&S)
04. Mary Lattimore & Jeff Zeigler“A Road” (Thrill Jockey)
05. Áine O’Dwyer “Falcon” (Second Language)
06. Jherek Bischoff“Headless” (The Leaf Label)
07. Agnes Obel“Familiar” (Play It Again Sam)
08. Jonny Greenwood (Copenhagen Phil, André de Ridder)“Future Markets” (There Will Be Blood OST, Deutsche Grammophon)
09. Radiohead“Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief” (XL Recordings)
10. Kedr Livanskiy“Razrushitelniy Krug (Destructive Cycle)” (2MR)
11. Lil Silva “Jimi” (Good Years)
12. DJ Shadow“The Sideshow” (feat. Ernie Fresh) (Mass Appeal)
13. Underworld“I Exhale” (Universal Music Group)
14. Floorplan“Music” (M-Plant)
15. Róisín Murphy“Simulation” (Permanent Vacation)
16. Hot Chip“Night and Day” (Daphni Mix) (Domino)
17. Junior Boys“Big Black Coat” (Robert Hood Remix) (Jiaolong / City Slang)
18. Peder Mannerfelt“Perspectives” (Peder Mannerfelt Produktion)
19. Aphex Twin“CHEETAHT2 [Ld spectrum]” (Warp)
20. Ólafur Arnalds“RGB” (LateNightTales)
21. Julianna Barwick“Someway” (Dead Oceans)
22. Julia Holter“Finale” (Leaving / Domino)

Compiled by Fractured Air, July 2016. The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.

Chosen One: Nonkeen

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Interview with Frederic Gmeiner & Sepp Singwald (Nonkeen).

“I think these are the moments which we are searching for where you dissolve in the music with the others.”

—Frederic Gmeiner

Words: Mark Carry


In the liner notes of 2011’s ‘Felt’ full-length, Nils Frahm describes how “the music becomes a contingence, a chance, an accident within all this rustling.” It is precisely this important factor – the role of chance – that lies at the heart of the many monumental works of the Berlin-based composer, not least the latest awe-inspiring project, dubbed Nonkeen – unveiled at the beginning of 2016 – with his childhood friends, Frederic Gmeiner and Sepp Singwald.

The trio’s shared fascination with the powerful possibilities of sound would mean their childhood days were spent experimenting with tape machines, whose inception was the birth of a playground radio show in the suburbs of Hamburg. The utterly beguiling debut full length release, ‘The Gamble’ – released on the prestigious R&S label – unfolds a divine pathway to notions of space and the cosmos. The hypnotic lead single ’Chasing God Through Palmyra’’s looped electronic beat offered the first glimpses into the other-worldly sound world of Nonkeen. The dazzling cut could have been taken from Scottish duo Boards of Canada’s ‘Geogaddi’ LP such is its eternal magical bliss.

A parallel that bridges Nonkeen and the renowned electronic producers is their (shared) compulsion to “uncover the past inside the present”. An entire spectrum of sounds – jazz improvisation, pop hooks, electronic mastery, ambient flourishes and post-rock euphoria – awakens from the very compositions captured on ‘The Gamble’ and its eagerly awaited (and appropriately titled) follow-up, ‘The Oddments of the Gamble’.

The shimmering seas of summer are somehow transplanted across the sprawling canvas of ‘Diving Platform’, one of the band’s crowning jewels (taken from ‘The Oddments of the Gamble’). A gorgeous haze of reverb-soaked Rhodes and pristine electric guitar tones (supplied by special guest guitarist Martyn Heyne) dissolves into a myriad of fleeting moments as waves of transcendence washes over you. The pulsating ‘Glow’ contains a deep groove and shape-shifting rhythms that feel like remnants of a faded dream. Elsewhere on the record, trusted friends & collaborators, Andrea Belfi, Peter Broderick and Martyn Heyne each add their distinctive musical hand-print to the trio’s scintillating odysseys.

Nils Frahm’s sold-out Barbican show earlier this month – as part of the captivating ‘Possibly Colliding’ marathon weekend, curated by Frahm – felt not only like a celebration of the visionary artist’s cherished songbook (thus far) but rather a distillation of the most ground-breaking moments of today’s contemporary music scene. The angelic, hushed solo piano pieces were interwoven with the sprawling and sublime synthesizer-led pieces and many live collaborations – cellist Anne Müller, Nonkeen with the addition of gifted drummer Andrea Belfi, London-based vocal ensemble Shards, and the André de Ridder-led stargaze ensemble – rendered new versions of Frahm’s towering body of work and offered new insights into the gifted composer’s sonic sphere. Nonkeen is one vital part to this sphere wherein Frahm and his close friends continue to blur the boundaries of what is attainable. Perfecting sound forever.


‘The Oddments of the Gamble’ is out on 15th July 2016 via R&S Records.


Interview with Frederic Gmeiner & Sepp Singwald (Nonkeen).

I’d love for you to discuss the wonderful story behind Nonkeen – and how you’re all childhood friends – and your experiments with sound using tape recorders and your shared fascination with sound?

Frederic Gmeiner: From the material on ‘Oddments of the Gamble’ and ‘The Gamble’, the oldest tape is maybe eight years old that we used for the albums now. But before we were also playing together but very loose – just in the rehearsal space when we had time to play together. So in the evening somebody would call, ‘do you have time tomorrow? So let’s meet. Is the room available? Yes, it is, so let’s go there and play’. So, over the years the rehearsal spaces changed because we had to leave one in a hurry because the owner wanted to do something in the building and stuff like that. So you might call it also accidents that happens which you have to deal with but we always kept on being inspired by this band. But we didn’t even call it a band because it wasn’t such a thing; we never organized a concert for example – friends were inviting us and I don’t know how old we were, we were very young – when we were playing together from time to time and people knew you were playing in a band so they asked ‘do you want to play here and there?’ and so it happened.

I could see also how when we were younger, we were maybe not fearless but we didn’t think much about it. We were playing the stuff that we were inspired by or listening to anyhow and since it was a Fender Rhodes, 70’s amp and electric bass and 90’s drums with the 70’s sound – drum set drums [laughs] – and we were playing music that when we were listening to it, you could pretty much tell what the influence was straight away like this sounds like Soft Cell for example. We found it like crazy music and automatically we were eager trying this out and topping each other you know and trying to show off in a way. But over time by listening to the stuff that we recorded – I mean at the beginning we never recorded rehearsals we were just recording when we were playing live – and then listening back to it, it was always nice but you could always tell like “oh, this sounds like this, for example” and so over the years we got more and more defined in finding your own sound.

We were curious about these moments that we kept on tape where we were saying like “I don’t remember us playing that actually” and “I don’t know, when was it? Five years ago?What instrument is it? Who’s playing that?” And also the music and these moments, somehow I can’t get it out of my head and you’re listening to it back and back. We never took it out with us home, we always just listening all three of us together when we were meeting. I mean sometimes there might have been a month in between when we were listening to the stuff but we were then picking again these passages up when we were all saying “From the last session I remember this” and “Yes me too, and it was somehow stuck in my head” so it all came together somehow.

It’s cool how it was almost like a listening exercise where you build a library and subconsciously in a way, you’re agreeing on a certain direction or type of sound. I can imagine that was either the most difficult part of perhaps most exciting? Also, I wonder would you be adding counterpoint sections present-day to recordings that you had made previously?

FG: It is hard in a way to come to a mutual agreement, it is true but we had time and there was no target; none of us were even thinking of making an album while doing that. It was just out of curiosity so that was easy in a way. But of course if you’re going to have a record contract back then which would say ‘next year you have to do an album’ that would be problematic of course. It would be much more like ‘OK guys, I know you don’t like this but let’s go for it, you know’ but it wasn’t like that.

Sepp Singwald: We didn’t analyse it so far that we’d have to find a counterpoint to this or to that. We always played what we wanted to play and in the very, very end after eight years we combined it.

‘Chasing God Through Palmyra’ is a very special recording of yours [from ‘The Gamble’]. Deconstructing it, is that a sample that is looped continually throughout?

FG: Yes, it’s all from the rehearsal space and from the tapes. We were playing around with the material in a way that we were more sequencing stuff. There was a drum machine running in the rehearsal space, it was just there and so we were plugging it in and trying it out.

SS: So we had a Gretsch and made it loud.

FG: Then putting it on a big tape machine to basically use it as just a compressor but we pitched it down so it became this wobbling, moogy, tribal-ish, techno-ish thing which we were inspired by. But all of these things coming together was a real coincidence and we could never re-do this. That’s also why on tour it was problematic to play this. For us we were really confronted with a decision, shall we play it or not.

SS: Should we try best to be as a computer?

FG: Exactly because without the drum track – without the electronic drums – it would lose its preciseness and none of us are playing like a machine so we had to compete with a machine basically. It was very frustrating for us to put on a beat and just play synthesizers so we said ‘we’re not playing it’. But we were thinking it’s a nice track, people know it so we should somehow play it. So then we came up with the idea to put it on a record onstage so in the middle of the set in the front of the stage there was a record player and we were setting up the record and serving drinks to the audience and making maybe a few foolish jokes but then we would continue to play the songs [afterwards]. I mean it’s unconventional – you might also say why are you doing this? – but it’s exactly the reason why we did it because we wanted to play it but we didn’t want to compete with a machine onstage and lose [laughs]. And being so over-concentrated on following it and being precise because it is the preciseness that makes electronic music is just one example.

It must have been a totally new perspective for you when it came to touring and playing live shows? And also how the trio was joined by Andrea Belfi on drums, it must have added new elements and perspectives when the group were now a four-piece?

FG: I mean for the first time in playing together, we were confronted with a situation that we had to practice, that we had to prepare something for playing and not just for a single evening but for twenty evenings in a row. So we couldn’t use our method that we used before saying like OK let’s maybe define a little bit and go onstage and play together because it would be way too intense to – and way too long also – to come up every night with this uncertainty and play with it. Maybe it’s also possible, I don’t know. On the other hand, if we were to completely streamline it and plan it until the last sound and note and moment, maybe it would become boring for us and also for the audience, it’s always like that.

So we were looking at it because we knew the songs also so well after working with them for such a long time – not playing them but just listening to them, editing them and making overdubs – they were inside us already, we could just make interpretations of them. That worked very well I think and it also helped us as a band to deal with more diverse situations because every night is different, every room is different, the spirit, the mood of the audience: are they sitting or are they standing, are they more reserved, it makes something with you. Also does it feel like in a rehearsal space on a small stage or is it a huge hall where you have big reverb and you don’t hear each other very well. Things like that and all these situations helped us a lot I think. Now I am very curious to go back to the rehearsal space after that experience and that learning process.

I love also with these two albums is the wide range of sounds and influences, there’s jazz, post-rock, electronic, ambient, krautrock that all really effortlessly ebbs and flows into one another. The sequencing of the albums was also an important factor I imagine?

FG: Also what I think developed from the live set was exactly these counterpoints and to sometimes let loose and have moments where you don’t know really yourself where you are and you just have to let yourself fall down and trust that all will turn out good in the end. And there are more parts that are more defined and precisely arranged. But I think it is right – I see it as well – I think a single track doesn’t make much sense but it’s always the combination of them and how you put them together which makes it interesting.

I love how the new album represents an entirely new chapter too. It doesn’t feel like a sister album but rather it feels like a new point in time. For example, the lead track ‘Diving Platform’ with the gorgeous guitar parts, it feels more direct and immediate.

FG: It’s more easy-going I would say. We always have this vision of a perfect summer day, driving a nice car or a bicycle in the countryside and the wind is coming and you just want to dive.

SS: It was with the first bass drum you see someone jumping from a diving platform into a lake.

FG: I think most of the sessions we had because when we went into the rehearsal space we didn’t know what would happen and often I mean you have other things in life and sometimes you have a good day and sometimes there are bad days, sometimes you are more energetic and sometimes you are a bit more tired, sometimes you’re patient to listen to something, sometimes you’re not. It was like a meditation thing and often sessions were sounding more like the music I think on ‘The Gamble’ but there were some sessions that were more like on ‘Diving Platform’ for example. This is like an excerpt; we were playing it for like thirty to forty minutes and there was this thing developing. And it always starts like that; someone is playing a beat or on the Rhodes or on the synthesizer or the bass and you all just start.

SS: It came up by fooling around and just make some fun but then OK we’re really playing this kind of track so let’s go for that and I had a big moustache in my mind and we are all smiling.

Do you think it was a difficult decision to release the second album so quickly after the first one and to decide on what goes onto it?

FG: As I said, we didn’t plan to release an album for such a long time – we didn’t even have a name – and then this all happened and we were all wowed by this warm reception and the feedback and now with this live tour that we thought let’s also share this other album basically and not to wait. And of course strategically or marketing-wise, I don’t know maybe you should wait or whatever and no one told us that so it was more like it’s great, I might like it even a bit more than ‘The Gamble’ [laughs] so let’s release it and so that’s basically how it was, nothing more or less. But I think that’s also good not having something in the drawer to hold back and you’re always waiting until this gets out. You put it out and then you have no cards left, you have to make new cards that you can play.

SS: And even to wait another seventeen days feels long. Actually because it is there, it’s got a cover, I want everybody to listen to it and get the feedback.

FG: It is strange because back then we didn’t have anything on vinyl or cd or to download or to sell, if someone was interested, we would just give them some music for friends, so now there’s a release date and it’s all interesting. But this is also new for us because it makes it more a band of course, this process like doing interviews and preparing for a tour, touring and doing band photos and stuff like that and thinking about music videos. It’s all great and fun but it’s not making music [laughs], it’s something else, you know. It’s new for us in that context, I mean everyone has their other projects. Seeing it also sometimes a bit sceptically, thinking will our innocence be gone afterwards? But I think going back to the rehearsal space and taking time because that is what it is; it’s a gift for all of us, we all have other things in life where we make a living out of it but Nonkeen is not about that. Luckily we have all the time in the world, if it takes ten years now for the next album and to go on the next tour but you don’t know, chance will tell.

I love how there is that DIY ethos at the heart of Nonkeen too where there is nothing pre-conceived or anything like that. And as you said, it’s completely music you’re just making for yourself without ever considering the audience?

FG: I mean it’s really like that. When we had the tracks and we were saying: “Oh this is finished and we don’t have anything to add” but really we had no idea if other people would like it or not. It’s different to say oh it’s OK to like something, it’s really interesting. It took so long like distilling alcohol again and again just to get the essence which was for us because it was so close to our heart always, we were taking our time and working on it as long as it needs without any rush. But you don’t know how others would perceive it and for us I think the most wonderful thing was and is, what people hear in it because I would always love to listen to that music without having heard it before. For the first time if someone played this to me and said, here have you heard this, listen to it but that’s not possible because you know that stuff but that must be great somehow.

SS: It’s like standing onstage and playing, I would often like to ‘snap’ and sit in the audience and see everything and listen.

FG: It’s really, really great and we’re really happy about it that there is so many people listening to it and also come up with so many references and often also very true. And often people say Boards of Canada, it’s a huge influence on us but it’s other instruments and stuff. Of course it’s maybe inherent in the music because we are so inspired by them but if someone had asked us ‘how does your music sound’, we would never say ‘yeah like Boards of Canada’, we would never think about this association. For me of course, it is so far away somehow but it is a great honour and it is what it is, we are all inspired by things.

There’s something special about a trio. I wonder would you ever individually come up with something like a sketch or idea and then come to the rehearsal space where the three-piece would flesh it out?

FG: I think that when we go to the rehearsal space – I mean except now preparing the tour but all the years before – it’s really interesting that we never really talked about music, I mean we didn’t talk about our music. It was never like ‘hey guys, I have this song, let’s play this’ or ‘I think we should sound more like this’. It never happened because I think we would have failed [laughs]. It’s more I think of finding a style in the way of making music together that we all feel comfortable with, technically and emotionally and seeing it as a whole thing basically. I think these are the moments which we are searching for where you dissolve in the music with the others. In that moment you don’t think anymore, it’s just this and you’re completely enjoying it. And then when you listen back to it a year later, you couldn’t even remember that moment where we’re like, is it us playing this?

It’s a very intimate thing but I think these moments you can’t plan, it’s as simple as that and I think we realized that from a very early stage. For all of us it is the most important thing that we will have is continuing these moments, no matter what. No matter if we release any albums or going on tour because this is the most important thing, to play together and Nils has so many other projects and you [Sepp] also, it’s not about not being able to play. But I think what we are always curious about is finding these moments where you dissolve and where it’s not about you, it all has to work as a whole thing, it becomes its own creature somehow.

And that’s the thing too where it’s not the first album in isolation. Suddenly you have a body of work now quite quickly, there’s a narrative now flowing and where you can see down the line nearly. I loved the 12″ vinyl release too where you can pick the desired speed to play the tracks on.

FG: I mean in the end again like with that decision why would you put both tracks on a single but it’s because of that; it happened by playing around with a tape machine and by pitching it and this is something you can also do with a turntable or record player, so why not using the medium and giving it out to everyone to try it out. It is really about always deciding on what makes sense. And now with these two albums we made a trajectory that we have to follow because that is a style that everyone is expecting. I don’t know but maybe the next album will be something completely different. Let’s see.

‘The Oddments of the Gamble’ is out on 15th July 2016 via R&S Records.

Written by admin

July 14, 2016 at 2:17 pm

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S1E4 | April mix

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We’re delighted to present an exclusive unreleased track by U.S. composer and songwriter Peter Broderick (Bella Union, Erased Tapes) in April’s mixtape. For well over a decade now, the world-renowned Portland Oregon-born artist has been to the forefront of the thriving independent music scene, amassing a considerable body of work across a multitude of labels and platforms in the process. While originally a member of both Efterklang and Horse Feathers, Broderick’s reputation as a gifted solo composer would be heralded by the release of both folk-based “Home” (Bella Union) and the piano-based “Float” (Type) in 2008. Since then, Broderick has released a plethora of records for labels such as Erased Tapes and Bella Union, highlights including: 2009’s “Music For Falling From Trees”, 2011’s “Music For Confluence”, 2012’s “These Walls Of Mine” and 2015’s “Colours Of The Night” albums. Collaboration has also been of vital importance to Broderick’s artistic output to date. Duos have been formed with U.K.’S Greg Haines (Greg Gives Peter Space) and France’s Félicia Atkinson (La Nuit) while other collaborations have featured: Nils Frahm, Machinefabriek, Gabriel Solomon, Heather Woods Broderick and The Beacon Sound Choir. In recent years, Broderick has produced, recorded, and guested on many musicians’ works from his home-based studio, “The Sparkle” (Corrina Repp, Brumes, David Allred).
Here is how Peter describes his track, “Boom”:

“It’s a thing I call Boom, and it’s basically just some effected casio loops with live drums over the top… I’ve enjoyed listening to it several times and don’t really have any plans to do anything with it.”

Also appearing on April’s mixtape is Irish composer and pianist Conor Walsh. Born in County Mayo, Conor Walsh released his debut E.P. (“The Front”, via Ensemble Music) last year to widespread critical acclaim. Despite it being Walsh’s debut recorded release, Walsh was a firmly established artist who had toured regularly across Ireland and additionally composed for both film and television to date. It was with such great sadness to learn of Conor’s sudden and untimely death in March. We’d both like to take this opportunity to dedicate this month’s mixtape to the memory of Conor Walsh, such an inspiring and beautiful composer and person who has touched many people’s lives with his music.

Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S1E4 | April mix

To Read/listen on La Blogothèque:



01. Days Of Heaven“You’d give him a flower…” (Paramount Pictures)
02. HKE“Awake” (Olde English Spelling Bee)
03. Nico Muhly/Sam Amidon“The Only Tune: I. the Two Sisters” (Bedroom Community)
04. Nonkeen“The Invention Mother” (R&S)
05. Peter Broderick“Boom” (Unreleased)
06. Micachu & The Shapes“Oh Baby” (Rough Trade)
07. Babyfather“God Hour” (feat. Micachu) (Hyperdub)
08. Samiyam“Animals Have Feelings” (Stones Throw)
09. Mo Kolours“A Soul’s Journey” (One-Handed Music)
10. John Forbes, Teach, Earth, Roots & Water“Awakening” (Summer)
11. Van Dyke Parks“Occapella” (Warner Bros.)
12. Tindersticks“How He Entered” (City Slang/Lucky Dog)
13. Ravel“Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte” (Decca)
14. Pantha du Prince“The Winter Hymn” (feat. Queens) (Rough Trade)
15. Solar Bears“Wild Flowers” (Sunday Best Recordings)
16. The Field“Pink Sun” (Kompakt)
17. DJ Koze“Marilyn Whirlwind” (Victoria OST, Erased Tapes)
18. Grizzly Bear“A Simple Answer” (Liars Remix) (Warp)
19. Lindstrøm“Closing Shot” (Feedelity/Smalltown Supersound)
20. Tropic of Cancer “Stop Suffering” (Blackest Ever Black)
21. Linda Buckley“Haunt” (The Wake OST, Soundcloud)
22. Bonnie “Prince” Billy“When Thy Song Flows Through Me” (Drag City/Domino)
23. Colin Stetson, Megan Stetson & The Sorrow Ensemble“Sorrow – A Reimagining of Gorecki’s 3rd Symphony: II” (extract) (52Hz)
24. Conor Walsh“K Theory” (Ensemble Music)
25. Hauschka“Stromness” (Eluvium Remix) (City Slang)
26. Peter Broderick “And Its Alright” (Nils Frahm RMX) (LateNightTales)
27. Ryuichi Sakamoto & Alva Noto“The Revenant Theme” (Alva Noto Remodel) (The Revenant OST, Milan)
28. Nils Frahm“Our Own Roof” (Victoria OST, Erased Tapes)

Compiled by Fractured Air, April 2016. The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.


Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S1E2| February mix

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Part Two of our mix series for La Blogothèque. We’ve tried to include something here from as many of our favourite labels as possible. Also included is a short excerpt from an interview we did with the legendary Los Angeles-based folk singer Linda Perhacs (to coincide with the release of her second solo LP “The Soul Of All Natural Things” on Asthmatic Kitty in 2014). February’s mix also comprises a few original scores to films (“Belladonna of Sadness”, “#HORROR”, “Mistress America” and “Mustang”) where each soundtrack certainly conveys a very singular mood and spirit for their respective subjects (and films). While it’s a little foolish to single out a particular song/artist (isn’t that the complete opposite of what a mixtape is supposed to be?) we would like to conclude by mentioning someone very special whom we only recently discovered: Tia Blake (thanks to Josh Rosenthal’s gorgeous book “The Record Store of the Mind”); her sole album was 1971’s “Folksongs And Ballads” (by “Tia Blake and her folk-group”), a most beautiful and precious thing indeed.



Fractured Air x Blogothèque – S1E2 | February mix

To Read/listen on La Blogothèque:




01. Fire!“She Bid a Meaningless Farewell” (Rune Grammofon)
02. Dawn of Midi“Ijiraq” (Erased Tapes)
03. nonkeen“chasing god through palmyra” (R&S)
04. 1115“The Drowned World I” (Alien Transistor)
05. Julia Holter“Vasquez” (Domino)
06. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – “Arthropoda” (Western Vinyl)
07. Cool Maritime“Spring” (Leaving)
08. Linda PerhacsInterview (excerpt) (Fractured Air)
09. Linda Perhacs“Parallelograms” (Kapp/Sunbeam)
10. Jóhann Jóhannsson with Hildur Guðnadóttir & Robert Aiki Aubrey Lowe“End of Summer Part 4” (excerpt) (Sonic Pieces)
11. Bob Dylan“Father Of Night” (Columbia)
12. Lubomyr Melnyk “Sunshimmers” (Erased Tapes)
13. Lee Hazlewood“Hands” (MGM, Ace)
14. Masahiko Sato“Valle Incantata” (Belladonna of Sadness OST, Finders Keepers)
15. The Fabulous Luckett Brothers“Help Me to Carry On” (Honest Jon’s)
16. A Hawk And A Hacksaw“Wedding Theme (Ukraine)” (LM Dupli-Cation)
17. Calexico“When Only The Ashes Are Left” (Our Soil, Our Strength)
18. Thomas Köner“Tiento de la Luz 4” (excerpt) (Denovali)
19. Ricardo Donoso“Morning Criminal” (Denovali)
20. EMA“Amnesia Haze (Vox & Guitar Only)” (#HORROR OST, City Slang)
21. Dean Wareham & Britta Phillips“Mistress America” (Mistress America OST, Milan)
22. Alex Smoke“Fair Is Foul” (R&S)
23. Lord RAJA“Footwork” (Ghostly International)
24. Roly Porter“In System” (Tri Angle)
25. Warren Ellis“Mustang” (Mustang OST, Milan)
26. Tia Blake “The Rising of the Moon” (Water)
27. Langley Schools Music Project“Space Oddity” (Bar/None)
28. Qluster“In deinen Händen” (Bureau B)

Compiled by Fractured Air, February 2016. The copyright in these recordings is the property of the individual artists and/or record labels. If you like the music, please support the artist by buying their records.