FRACTURED AIR

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Chosen One: Nils Frahm

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Interview with Nils Frahm.

“And this is just the start of new concepts and new conceptions of what I could do as a performer.”

—Nils Frahm

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

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I first heard the music of Nils Frahm sometime during 2010. Even though the precise time is unclear; the source of this special musical discovery remains entrusted in my memory. Portland, Oregon’s Peter Broderick helped craft Nils’ solo album ‘The Bells’ – a spellbinding collection of recordings that served my starting point to the vital works of the gifted German composer – and it was through Peter that stunningly beautiful sonic creations such as ‘Said and Done’ and  ‘Small Me’ came into my life. The pair rented a beautiful, old church in Berlin for two nights which would provide the magical setting for ‘The Bells’ (an album originally recorded as ‘Solo Piano Series – Vol. 2’ for Kning Disk, Sweden and later released by Erased Tapes in 2009).

On the liner notes, Peter recounts first listening to Frahm’s piano recordings: “It was absolutely breathtaking…I remember thinking to myself as I lay there stunned, that I could spend ten years trying to write an amazing piece of piano music, and still it would never be half as good as these improvisations.” Tracks such as ‘Said And Done’ and ‘Over There, It’s Raining’ would later be captured live and documented on 2013’s utterly transcendent full-length release, ‘Spaces’. The live recordings captured on ‘Spaces’ were culled from over thirty shows that feels closer to a vast treasure of field recordings from a future we have not yet arrived upon. The ‘Spaces’ tour has continued throughout 2014, playing sold-out venues across Europe, the U.S, Japan and Australia. Listening to ‘Spaces’ or any array of Frahm’s singular works, the impossible becomes attainable as a deeply moving, cognitive experience unfolds between the remarkable artist and his awe-struck audience.

For any artist, his or her personality can’t help but shine through on their resultant works (of art) and this is certainly the case for the Berlin-based composer. It’s the vast seas of sincerity, determination, curiosity, and enthusiasm that becomes immediately apparent when I’ve been fortunate enough to be in Nils’ company, with which ceaselessly radiates from the mesmerising waves of sound of the composer’s compelling compositions. I recall a sound-check in Dublin’s Unitarian church on an early winter’s evening in 2012. As the faded sun-light shone through the glass windows, Nils raced up and down the narrow aisle, pin-pointing the tone and identifying the acoustics of the surrounding space as the glorious piano notes filled the sacred space. As I stood dumbfounded in the background, the piano’s unique tone and touch effectively traversed the human space that felt nothing short of staggering. I feel this very same reaction when the vinyl of ‘Felt’ or ‘Screws’ comes on: the sound waves inscribed in the grooves of these records (or any of Frahm’s works) truly heightens all that surrounds you.

New tracks have been performed live throughout the year, including the monumental tour-de-force, ‘All Melody/#2’ which feels like the natural progression (and a distant companion) to the similarly captivating ‘Says’. The transcendent opus sees Frahm continue to push the sonic envelope as new and exciting possibilities of sound is forged. ‘All Melody’ is based on a gorgeous ambient synth loop that gradually fades in and out of focus. Moments later, electronic glitches and percussive tones of the piano serves the perfect counterpoint. It’s the sum of these parts that form a deeply affecting spectrum of human emotion through sound. As Nils mentioned in a previous interview, his ongoing mission to “translate music into psychology” is reaching new heights. The unreleased track ‘#2’ is closer to the ‘Juno’ synthesizer-based works where anything feels possible. The wide dynamic range makes for an astonishing experience as the crescendo of towering synthesizer harmonies ascend like ripples of ocean waves. Gentle and heartfelt pulses permeate throughout the softer sections resulting in a soulful and deeply human exploration in electronic sound.

The electronic-oriented sounds brings the German sound sculptor closer to fellow-luminaries, Jon Hopkins and Clark et al, as a resolutely unique path is forged. As the striking narrative continues, the spirit of invention forever lies at the heart of Frahm’s indispensable art. What comes next is a prospect to savour with each anticipated breath of air.

 


 

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‘Spaces’ is available now on all formats via Erased Tapes. For more information on Nils Frahm’s new projects and upcoming concert dates please visit:

http://www.nilsfrahm.com
http://www.erasedtapes.com

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Interview with Nils Frahm.

Hi Nils, it’s great to talk to you again.

Nils Frahm: It’s my pleasure.

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How has the tour been going for you?

NF: It’s been really fantastic. We just played the Barbican [last night], sold out and everything. Wow, it was absolutely gorgeous.

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I love the new music, Nils. ‘All Melody/#2’ is really amazing.

NF: Thank you. I’m happy you like it.

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I love how you are always developing in the sense that the ‘All Melody’ track in particular, how there is this gorgeous ambient synth loop running throughout but then there is a contrast with the electronic elements and the piano that comes in later. It’s amazing how there are all these layers happening.

NF: Cool, I’m happy you like it. I mean for people who only know my piano stuff and for the older people who like the ‘Wintermusik’ and things like that, it can be a little shocking but it’s so much fun I need to do something like that.

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I imagine too Nils in the way you’ve been touring so much this year – it’s obvious I suppose – but with the live performance; it must really filter into your writing when you’re recording your own music at home?

NF: Yeah, exactly. At the moment I am going to the rehearsal room a lot and the rehearsal room looks a lot like a stage, basically and it’s really great to have the possibility to rehearse things before I go onstage. Earlier I just basically improvised more; now I’m taking the chance and all that to shape new ideas and maybe make the songs first and later go to record them, you know. Before I was always going to the studio and making a new track and then maybe playing it live. But now I’m not recording much of these new things because first I want to make good live versions so I can have something to develop on tour.

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Another cool thing too, your recent hometown show with Jon Hopkins. Even that in itself, you know in a way looking at your music, there are more parallels with someone like Jon Hopkins and all these producers in the sense of what you’re doing. As you say, if you only look at your solo piano, that’s only one aspect.

NF: Exactly, exactly. This is so true. I like the more colour it gives me and that really drives my boat.

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The Una Corda which is the new instrument that has recently been unveiled, I can imagine for a musician it must be this whole new gateway in the sense that it is this new instrument for you. What is it like to be composing and performing on it?

NF: I feel like I am a trained pianist but I also have so much expertise with studio work; there’s cables and there’s all these details of making electronics work as musical instruments and so I realize, actually I know my Juno synthesizer almost as good as I know the piano. I’ve had it since I was thirteen or fourteen, I used it for almost twenty years now. And it’s very intuitive for me; I can play in the dark, you know.

I think it’s really nice to make use of that because not so many people really know how to use all these old and classic machines which sound so musically and all of them act like musical instruments because they have this soul, you know it’s not like a plug-in that is the same every night. They always feed back something into your performance which is so exciting; it’s like taming the beast. You got to be really fast and be trained and skilled to synchronize all these machines in a way, and you have to have the nerve to do that in front of two thousand people.

I think that’s what impresses people also is that there’s a sense of intuition to it like the sense of, you have to set the delay to the tempo of the modulator at the beginning for maybe two or three things where you have to make times and then all the settings and remember all the knobs you have to change and there are no pre-sets – it’s not like you know the session and everything is set – but with the Juno synthesizer, you’ve got to do this, this, this, this… like fifteen, sixteen, seventeen little changes before the song is there. This is really thrilling you know, it’s so much fun and the rewarding bit of it when it all works, it sounds like real electronica; it sounds like something people don’t really hear so much these days. When they listen to electronic music it’s mostly coming from the computer or pre-recorded material; it can feel a little static at times.

But when people watch the electronica I am doing, even if they’re not really super into the details of how it works, they understand what they hear is what I’m doing in the moment. There’s all this movement I’m doing and they’re totally connected with the sounds which happen so everybody understands, oh Nils live. People come and talk to me like, oh it’s like Jean Michelle Jarre or Tangerine Dream or Klaus Schulze because that was the last time when people really had to do it that way. They had to bring all these big crazy machines onstage and pray that they would work and I think you have the right to think that because it’s not really common anymore that people play analogue synthesizer onstage.

I think that all analogue synthesizers; the sounds they produce are so nice that I want to explore it more and also use it as a contrast to the really quiet piano moments and have this bigger sound and alien kind of sounds and then contrast it with really mellow piano tones and all that. And it’s just becoming this wonderland of acoustics the show I am doing now and I’m so happy that people seem to just follow me; it’s like “Hey! That’s cool” and I’m really surprised that almost nobody complains about it, of course some people say, “Do like a nice solo piano record” and I will at some point. But now I think is the time to explore new territory and do something quite unique.

And this is just the start of new concepts and new conceptions of what I could do as a performer. It’s more about exploring what is Nils like as a live performer and not what Nils as a pianist is or as a studio producer but what is my speciality just as a real-time performing artist. And the shows I have played so far, I’ve really got a lot of experience I have to say and I have developed enough skill apart from composing and practising piano and improvisation that it is another skill to be able to make a complicated show happen in different venues, night by night and always make it as good as the night before; you’ve just got to learn how it works and it’s a really exciting time.

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That sounds amazing. And it’s always about surprising yourself and I suppose this kind of approach you have; you keep on exploring new avenues.

NF: Yeah, exactly.

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You said before how the music follows the story in the sense that you are always recording music but I wonder is the next narrative in the story so this whole concept of in the moment and live performance as opposed to, like you said with the studio?

NF: Yeah, I thought about it and I thought well I would like to not record my next album so much in my comfortable studio where I have my coffee machine and all my stuff you know where I usually work, like on ‘Felt’ and ‘Screws’ and stuff. But to work in a rehearsal room with all the things connected like I have onstage. It’s basically ‘Spaces’ without the audience. So I’m like in this mad professor/scientific room where all the instruments are connected as I have them onstage, I would just play live performances with all the sequencers and synthesizers because I feel like this is the way how electronic music makes so much fun; it’s so much fun to play that way. It’s not so much fun to program the snare drum and fiddle with the mouse and move objects from left to right and then group something. It can get kind of boring and this is how I was working when I was younger but now I am working in this more like, everything together and togetherness and how all these could be one.

It’s a really exciting limitation also. So I’m not using all these things, I’m processing and fiddling and all that. I think this is how a lot of bedroom producers work in electronic music but to just make it more like a performance and then there are all those little things that are not perfect but maybe they show some excitement or show some human touch in this electronic world and that I think is a good direction to explore.

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That sounds wonderful. And I think as you say, if electronic music works or is successful, it’s because you feel that human emotion or touch in the music and that’s very true on ‘Spaces’ or indeed any of your electronic music.

NF: Exactly. And I felt like I was treating the piano at times like a synthesizer; I was processing the piano, I was hitting it like a drum machine, I was trying to treat the piano more like a synthesizer almost. Now, I’m playing the synthesizer almost like a piano. And I like this image that it’s basically the same curiosity that drives me which is just to explore interesting sounds or sounds which resonate and I think with the track ‘Says’ I started something with that song which now I have to start to tape. It was the first bite and now I’m starving for more. I’m curious what else can be achieved that way. ‘Says’ was basically a very simple idea based around an arpeggiator from a synthesizer – so minimal – and now it’s so natural to see what else is there if I would lift up that curtain more and more and see what is underneath.

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‘Says’ really blows you away. Again it’s nearly like separate movements; it’s like one flow really and there are so many moments that happen within the piece. But another thing it’s amazing even listening to it now – and I’m sure it’s for you playing it too –you can always get something different or something new from the music each time you listen to it.

NF: Yeah, that’s I think the wonderful aspect of having analogue equipment because the track ‘Says’ is basically a loop but it’s a real loop – it’s not like a loop in the computer that’s exactly the same over and over again – but it’s like slightly different because the delay that’s connected to it is wobbling a little bit, it’s imperfect and all of these changes throughout the song. And everything is done manually and every change in the song is done with your hands and nothing is done by machine. The sounds come from the machines but the controlling the machines is still with my hands and it’s only what I can do with my ten fingers so it’s kind of the same approach as playing the piano because the natural limit of the piano with ten fingers is that you can only do things with ten fingers. And this is kind of the same thing I apply to the treatment of electronic things.

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I think you said this before but it’s how you bend the possibilities of the instrument in the sense that is this unconventional way and how you are on your own path really.

NF: Yes and for me it’s exciting to use generic machines – what I mean is that it’s nothing very special and it’s basically a very common instrument – so trying to find your own language by using very common tools is actually very liberating. And to kind of make them your own and not just use them for things you may not intended to but in a way that if you like, oh I made these things; I made them and I think this is a concept which could take me to interesting places.

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It was very exciting to read the news about your mobile pipe organ and that you’re designing and building it at the moment. That sounds very special.

NF: It is, it is. I’m so curious and the pipe organ again is really like a very traditional instrument, it’s around for many many hundreds of years and I can’t wait to see what the organ could do when I control it. Just because it’s another interface – I know it’s a keyboard interfaced instrument – so I have the keyboard interface which I know but the sounds that come out of it is not a piano and basically I’m interested in different sounds so I’m excited to have the organ sound but controlled with my fingers. I don’t even know what exactly I should do with that but I will find out once it is done and I got pictures from the organ builder now and then and it’s progressing and I think that it will be done in January and then I can start composing and trying things and record some stuff. So I hope I will bring that thing on tour, it would be very exciting.

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It’s amazing too to see not only the quantity of projects you are doing but how varied they are and you have so many going on at the one time; it’s inspiring in itself.

NF: Yeah it’s because I can do this for a living and my fans have enabled me to make music and when you can do it every day then the consequence is a lot of things happen. This is wonderful.

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It’s wonderful to think – and it’s something I only found out recently – how your father designed a lot of the covers for ECM records?

NF: Yeah that’s true. He did that in the early 80’s.

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You’re obviously someone who started playing music so young, this idea of creating art and things must have been everywhere when you were growing up at home?

NF: Yeah. For me it’s just like a path and it’s so long that I don’t know where it actually started. I think it was around all the time and will be also around for a long time and I am really curious what will happen in the next ten, twenty, thirty years, you know just thinking longer term and you possibly have so much time to explore these things. And so the future is very exciting and I am curious what will happen.

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It’s exciting to look ahead and as you say if ‘Says’ is like the starting point, it’s very exciting to see what will follow.

NF: [laughs] Yeah for me too, for me too. You’re imagining certain things and in the end it will be replaced by the reality and this is the most fun thing about making records like imagining what they could be like and then in the end, see what they actually are like. So, this by itself is always thrilling.

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One last thing Nils, have you been listening to any good records lately?

NF: I just bought the new Aphex Twin album which I think is fantastic and really exciting. And I bought the Simeon ten Holt record that’s just out on vinyl, called ‘Canto Ostinato’ and that’s a really special piece of music for me that I just re-discovered, it’s just wonderful.

 

 


 

 

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‘Spaces’ is available now on all formats via Erased Tapes. For more information on Nils Frahm’s new projects and upcoming concert dates please visit:

http://www.nilsfrahm.com
http://www.erasedtapes.com

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Written by markcarry

December 9, 2014 at 12:33 pm

Mixtape: For Peter (A Mixtape by Fractured Air)

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For Peter [A Fractured Air Mix]

A selection of music based on (and inspired by) the music of American-born multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Peter Broderick.

To listen on Mixcloud:

http://www.mixcloud.com/Fractured_Air/for-peter-a-fractured-air-mix/

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Tracklisting:

01. Peter Broderick ‘A Beginning’ [Erased Tapes]
02. Peter Broderick ‘Walking/Thinking’ [Type]
03. Talk Talk ‘Eden’ [Parlophone]
04. Oliveray ‘The Book She Wrote And In The Time’ [Erased Tapes]
05. Nils Frahm ‘Interview Excerpt, November 2012’ [Fractured Air]
06. Nils Frahm ‘Peter’ [Erased Tapes]
07. Rival Consoles ‘Daddy (feat. Peter Broderick)’ [Erased Tapes]
08. Greg Gives Peter Space ‘The Drive’ [Erased Tapes]
09. Efterklang & The Danish National Chamber Orchestra ‘Mirador’ (Live) [Leaf, Rumraket]
10. Peter Broderick ‘The Path to Recovery’ [Erased Tapes]
11. Lubomyr Melnyk ‘Interview Excerpt, March 2013’ [Fractured Air]
12. Lubomyr Melnyk ‘Pockets Of Light’ (Excerpt) [Erased Tapes]
13. The Album Leaf ‘Never Held a Baby’ (feat. Peter Broderick) [Not On Label]
14. Tiny Vipers ‘Dreamer’ [Sub Pop]
15. Peter Broderick ‘An Ending’ [Erased Tapes]

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


 

Peter Broderick (plus band) with special guest Loch Lomond performs at the Half Moon Theatre, Cork on Sunday 19 October 2014. Tickets are €15, available now from Cork Opera House box office, Emmet Place, Cork and online from the link below.

PURCHASE TICKETS HERE:
http://www.corkoperahouse.ie/events/peter-broderick-plus-band

 

For full European tour dates please visit:

http://www.peterbroderick.net/
http://www.erasedtapes.com/

 


 

Written by admin

July 29, 2014 at 3:17 pm

Label Of Love: Erased Tapes

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2013 marked the fifth anniversary of the London-based record label Erased Tapes. For the last five years the label have introduced to the world some of the most innovative and original artists making music today. To mark their fifth anniversary, the label released a very special limited edition vinyl box-set last year – the ‘Erased Tapes V Collection’ – which includes previously unreleased recordings by it’s extensive roster of musicians.

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry
With contributions by: Ólafur Arnalds, Peter Broderick, Nils Frahm

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Last year marked the fifth anniversary of the hugely influential record label Erased Tapes. It is amazing to think that in such a short space of time the label has released some of the most ground-breaking and vital music of recent times, with recordings by artists such as Peter Broderick, Nils Frahm, Ólafur Arnalds and A Winged Victory For The Sullen, amongst many others. Fittingly, on their anniversary year, the label released ‘Corollaries’, the new album by legendary pianist Lubomyr Melnyk, whose pioneering Continuous Music has inspired a generation of musicians. In the same year, Frahm’s highly-anticipated live record ‘Spaces’ documents and effectively captures the pulsating energy of the Berlin composer’s utterly transcendent live shows. 2013 also saw the release of London-based singer-songwriter Douglas Dare’s debut E.P. ‘Seven Hours’ and Peter Broderick’s ‘Float 2013’, newly remastered by Nils Frahm. The box set features exclusive, previously unreleased recordings made by the label’s incredible roster of artists. What makes it all the more exclusive is the fact that the compilation wouldn’t be digitally available until the end of the year (24th December, 2013 to be precise). A must have for music-lovers everywhere. The lovingly assembled and designed box-set (designed by Torsten Posselt at FELD Berlin) is dedicated to its beloved audience – the early Erased Tapes music explorer. I look forward immensely to the next five years as the roster of gifted talents continue to journey into new and unknown horizons of possibilities and wonderment.

The first 7″ contains the electronic wizardry of Rival Consoles (‘Daddy’ feat. Peter Broderick) and Kiasmos’ euphoric minimal techno soundscapes (‘Driven’). Ryan Lee West AKA Rival Consoles creates beguiling electronic creations that encloses an organic sound within the artist’s minimal analogue framework. ‘Daddy’ is a haven of electronic bleeps and glitches that conjures up the sound of German electronic music and the indie-electronic sounds of B. Fleichsmann’s Morr Music output. The opening notes of lazer-guided synths drives the moonlight ballad into a late-night tale of inner-contemplation and reflection. The addition of Broderick’s vocals heightens the track’s exploratory dimension. The vocal shifts in register and loops in layers across West’s similarly evolving synth melodies. Towards the song’s close, Broderick’s fragile voice asks “Daddy, can I call myself a man now?” where the organic and synthetic are combined that traverses directly into the human space.

Kiasmos is the brainchild of Ólafur Arnalds and Bloodgroup mastermind Janus Rasmussen from the Faroe Islands. The starting point usually is an electronic beat supplied by Rasmussen, that would, in turn be dissected by Arnalds and before long, a timeless melody is constructed that perfectly compliments the electronic voyage. ‘Driven’ is a killer-track that loops forever and is allowed to live and breathe, as the layers float majestically into the atmosphere. Think Holden’s ‘The Inheritors’ record as a reference point. The latest release, ‘Thrown’ E.P. contains the two stunning tracks ‘Thrown’ and ‘Wrecked’ with exclusive remixes by FaltyDL and 65daysofstatic.

Berlin composer and cellist Anne Müller’s enchanting ‘Walzer für Robert’ opens up a whole new world of joyous sound that is nothing short of captivating. The intricate arrangements of cello strings is blended effortlessly with Frahm’s healing piano notes. The dancing melodies is reminiscent of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Take This Waltz’ where the listener is taken to the streets of Vienna and left to “yield to the flood” of the composition’s beauty. This piece of music represents the first glimpses of sunlight as a new day slowly unfolds with the promises of hopes, dreams and happiness. An essential record to own (and one of Erased Tapes many hidden treasures) is ‘7 fingers’ – the collaboration between the like-minded souls of Nils Frahm and Anne Müller. Having seen both artists live in various incarnations – Müller’s central presence to singer-songwriter Agnes Obel’s deeply affecting songbook, and Frahm’s solo shows – I long to witness both artists on stage together. With a new record currently being worked on in the trusted surrounds of Frahm’s Durton Studios, a follow-up will soon see the light of day.

On the flip-side is new signing New World’s End Girlfriend. Hailing from Nagasaki, Kyushu, Japan, the Japanese composer creates music that seems to contain all myriads of samples and fascinating sounds. The cut ‘Bohemian Purgatory Part 2’ (N.S.K.G. version) moves between house, techno and mish-mash of doo-wop/funk, breakbeat free-jazz and classical. It’s unlike anything you have heard ever before. The Erased Tapes album ‘Seven Idiots’ represents a new and unique voice in avant-garde/contemporary music that defies categorization. World’s End Girlfriend further highlights the label’s continual strive to push the sonic envelope and explore vast plains of sound.

The third 7″ represents the centerpiece to the Erased Tapes V collection. An exclusive new track by Portland-Oregon born artist, songwriter and composer, Peter Broderick is a joy to behold. ‘Give Me A Smile In 5’ offers a snapshot of Broderick’s beguiling songbook that has graced us with its presence these past several years. The opening lyrics evokes a foreboding mood, sung beneath swirling piano notes: “A fight was fought off the battlefield / Oh where is my brother, where is my brother?” The poignancy of Broderick’s songcraft and sheer emotional depth thus created leaves me endlessly dumbfounded. ‘Give Me A Smile In 5’ evolves into a dub-infused odyssey of vintage Burning Spear that adds a new dimension to the Mark Hollis-esque soundscapes (affecting harmonies, layered strings and subtle electronics) that creates an utterly timeless artistic creation. A profound sadness and openness of honesty permeates throughout the achingly beautiful lament.

“But when I face my loving mother
I feel ashamed, I feel the shame
I think about the end of thinking
With a smile, with a smile”

The gorgeous piano music of Nils Frahm is next. The previously unreleased ‘Little Boy In A Space Suit’ is delicately beautiful like a flower blooming in spring. Listen closely and you hear many found sounds hidden deep beneath. The soft touch of fallen leaves, sunlight pouring through a forest of trees. I’m transported to Virgina Astley’s first studio album ‘In The Gardens Where We Feel Secure’ such is the composition’s powerful magic to seep into the pools of one’s mind, and linger there, now and forever-more. One of my favourite Erased Tapes release comes from Oliveray – the collaboration between Nils and Peter – with the appropriately titled, ‘Wonder’. Released in 2011, the record has become a trusted companion and daily soundtrack for me. A wonderful sense of magic fills the space as the instrumentation of piano, violin, celeste, pump organ, guitar, voice and whistles unleashes heart-warming emotion into the surrounding stratosphere. I remember Nils one time telling me how his favourite thing in the world is the Bill Wells and Tape 12″ collaboration, entitled ‘Fugue’ (that I think was introduced to him by Peter!) It’s clearly evident upon listening to ‘Wonder’ that a similarly breathtaking sense of journey is attained here. A couple of glorious cover versions are dotted across the album; an acoustic guitar-based version of Efterklang’s ‘Harmonics’, and the Tiny Vipers song ‘Dreamer’ (written by Jesy Fortino). ‘Wonder’ is a sonic marvel that ceaselessly reveals hidden details of divine beauty.

The fourth 7″ comprises ‘Hanau Bridge’ by Codes In The Clouds and The British Expeditionary Force’s ‘End Of The New End’. Hailing from Dartford, England, Codes In The Cloud create enthralling guitar-based post-rock creations, reminiscent of Scotland’s Mogwai and Texans Explosions In The Sky. The intensity of the band’s guitar instrumentals stops you immediately in your tracks. On the flip-side, The British Expeditionary Force’s ‘End Of The New End’ is a piano-based heartfelt pop voyage that recalls the experimental pop of Why? and Casiotone For The Painfully Alone. “I try to swim out the mess I’m in, I try to swim but I’m wading further in” is a lyric of the final verse that brings the indie-electronica infused ballad to a delicate close.

The closing 7″ is a timeless exploration into the heart of contemporary neoclassical music. Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds provides a formidable creation in the form of ‘Happiness Does Not Wait’. The piano-based melody forms the central theme that soon is joined by an uplifting string section that forms the ideal counterpoint. Having released a plethora of shape-shifting records on the London-based label (much like Peter Broderick), Arnalds represents one of the most compelling and distinctive voices in modern-classical music today. Arnalds’ debut album ‘Euology For Evolution’ was released back in 2007 and since then an array of indispensable efforts have seen the light of day, from ‘Found Songs’ and ‘Living Room Songs’ to 2010’s   ‘…And They Have Escaped The Weight Of Darkness’ and ‘Another Happy Day’ O.S.T.

The enriching Erased Tapes V collection culminates in a live performance of ‘String Quartet No. 2: III’ by A Winged Victory For The Sullen Chamber Orchestra. The Michael Nyman piece (originally taken from his recordings with The Balanescu Quartet) is wonderfully interpreted here as a gorgeous haven of windswept strings float to the surface. This performance was taken from the band’s concert in Brussels’ Ancienne Belgique as part of the label’s anniversary tour. Certainly, a piece of music as moving as this is a joyous celebration of the Erased Tapes journey so far. A Winged Victory For The Sullen is the stunning collaborative project between Stars Of The Lid founder Adam Wiltzie and L.A. composer Dustin O’Halloran. The band’s current self-titled album is one of the label’s crowning jewels and later this year will see the long-awaited follow-up.

The closing note on the inner sleeve of the ‘Erased Tapes V Collection’ reads: “At the end of all music happiness will be erased.” Over these past five years, the listener and early Erased Tapes music explorer alike, are blessed to have come across such a gifted family of music-makers that have served a trusted companion to each of our endless numbered days.

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The limited edition box-set ‘Erased Tapes V Collection’ is available now on Erased Tapes.

http://www.erasedtapes.com

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Quotations.

“I can still remember the first song I ever wrote. My fingers were so small I could only do one chord on the guitar and I had to lay it on the floor to be able to play it because I couldn’t reach around it. I made a song out of that one chord and played it for hours on end, driving my whole family crazy. I guess from that point on I just kept exploring.”

—Ólafur Arnalds (taken from our interview in April 2013)

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“In Continuous Music, the piano is your lover, the piano is your slave, the piano is your glorious friend, it is your angelic friend. The piano is sort of like your breathing and it is a beautiful thing. I want every pianist to know that every piano on the face of this earth is their friend, so they do not fear the piano, but come to it with joy and say: “My dear friend, let’s make this music.”

—Lubomyr Melnyk (taken from our interview in March 2013)

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“That’s all I want to do, it’s not really about the musical concept but what it does to the listener. So throughout the album, it’s mostly about that, it’s a little bit like translating music into psychology and the other way around and to see how to structure that where people feel they can’t escape the experience, they want to be part of it and really want to know what’s coming next. They feel like anything’s possible. I’m working on that basically.”

—Nils Frahm (taken from our interview in January 2014)

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“When me and Nils play music together something magical happens. There is this energy in the air … a kind of energy that makes you think that anything is possible.”

—Peter Broderick (taken from our interview in October 2012)

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nilsfrahm_screws_craigcarry

Five Questions with Ólafur Arnalds.

(i) Favourite moment from the last 5 years?
OA: It’s hard to pick one. But I think premiering ‘For Now I am Winter’ for a sold out Barbican Hall earlier this year was pretty close to the top! Not just because how great the show was for me but also because my family traveled to London for the show and it was an emotional moment for us.

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(ii) Most proud work to date?
OA: Must not one always be proudest of his latest work? I am pretty proud of the new album anyway!

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(iii) A dream collaboration for you?
OA: Jon Hopkins, Imogen Heap.

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(iv) An ambition for next 5 years?
OA: Balance life and music. Or combine the two better in a way that can provide for a healthy lifestyle. And of course to make like 7 more albums and 10 more soundtracks!

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(v) Five words to describe Erased Tapes?
OA: Love, compassion, ambition, selection and friends!

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Five Questions with Peter Broderick.

(i) Favourite moment from the last 5 years?
PB: There are too many to pick one! My tour in europe with Nils Frahm in 2009 was a special one …

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(ii) Most proud work to date?
PB: An unreleased collection of songs based on some very vivid dreams I had in 2009-2010.

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(iii) A dream collaboration for you?
PB: Scoring Miranda July’s next film.

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(iv) An ambition for next 5 years?
PB: Spreading the love through music! Practicing my instruments, working hard to become a better musician and person.

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(v) Five words to describe Erased Tapes?
PB: dedicated, organized, visionary, passionate, loving.

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Five Questions with Nils Frahm.

(i) Favourite moment from the last 5 years?
NF: My first big tour with Peter Broderick in 2009.

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(ii) Most proud work to date?
NF: It is always an artists recent work, so: ‘Spaces’.

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(iii) A dream collaboration for you?
NF: Put me in a room with these ladies: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZ4LCejQg8o

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(iv) An ambition for next 5 years?
NF: I will work hard on keep surprising myself.

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(v) Five words to describe Erased Tapes?
NF: All tapes will be erased.

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The limited edition box-set ‘Erased Tapes V Collection’ is available now on Erased Tapes.

http://www.erasedtapes.com

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Whatever You Love You Are: Nils Frahm

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Words: Nils Frahm, Illustration: Craig Carry

nilsfrahm_craigcarry

Thursday 31 January 2013 

During this evening I had the wonderful pleasure to talk once again with German composer Nils Frahm. Our conversation centered on the idea of ‘Whatever You Love You Are’; what is the true source of an artist’s inspiration and where this comes from. The title comes from a Dirty Three record but I feel it resonates powerfully and rings true for all things in life-art in all its beautiful forms. I emailed Nils first of all asking him to contribute his thoughts and was excited to discover his interest in this particular experiment. The following evening, from his Berlin home, Nils was in conversation with me reflecting on what is most important to him. Like Nils’s music, his words offer endless inspiration.

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Maybe it’s interesting for people to read something different than your favourite album because I always feel that it puts too much emphasis on one album and kind of neglects all the other great stuff, you know what I mean. There is so much great music, to only point out one or two bands or whatever. But I was thinking myself of really what is, aside making music, what is my favourite thing in the world, or is there something even above making music which leads me to making music in the first place. Of course you want to make something beautiful and make the world a better place. This is quite general; you’re doing what you’re doing for a reason and of course I could say that I love the piano the most but that’s not always true and sometimes I hate it even and sometimes it’s really frustrating to struggle and to work, and your music and your art. If there is one thing; my favourite thing-it would be a little simplistic for me to say having a good meal and snuggling with your girlfriend. It certainly boils down to that sort of stuff. I think eating and preparing food, and being a host for people is actually what I always enjoy the most. Putting on some good music, and old records and inviting people, and having them over and then cook something for them. First some very good special beers. Just to make people feel very comfortable, like they are at home and they kind of, have a good experience. They are sharing, sharing moments together. I think it’s something I’ve learned from my Dad. He’s always a good host. It doesn’t matter to him if I tell him, oh can you cook something tonight.  He always has enough food and enough wine and enough things he can always throw you a little party, and then he plays good music and gets out his guitar and plays a song for everybody and just has good conversation. It’s always really rewarding. Those moments really matter. I really care about the in-between human being, if you like.

I can only imagine from your perspective when you have touring and different projects on the go, it’s nice to have you know, someplace to come back to.

Yeah, I really feel quite proud when I come home and I realize, oh cool I still have a home and I have a nice place I can share with people. And then I feel like I want to invite people. It’s the same for me when I work in the studio. People come over and I work in the studio and people realize everything is taken care of; everything is clean, the coffee is the best possible coffee you can drink. Then the gear I am using for the music I am helping people with, when I do mastering or such. It’s always the best of the best, and it’s me taking care of those things. There is something really clear to me-respect the needs and desires of my friends, and my beloved ones. Try to, maybe just being a host is something really wonderful.

When you say that one word, host, it’s nice because you feel that kind of responsibility to take care of whoever is coming to you and you make them feel welcome.

Like you say, when you ask a question about music, there are so many things you’re only going to leave out. You can only mention so much.  But I would love to know maybe, in terms of outside of music but staying in art would you have favourite films or books?

Well at one point when I have people over for dinner I will put on a record from The Gentleman Losers. They are really one of my favourites right now. I listen to their records all of the time. Their two albums, they’re both incredible. I feel like those are the only bands I would ask for helping me with my production because I love their sound. They’re getting so much and it sounds so wonderful. I feel like they are under-appreciated and nobody has really heard of them and I feel like that is unfair. It is one of the coolest music right now and one of my best musical influences.

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Nils Frahm’s current album, ‘Screws’, is available now on Erased Tapes.

The Screws Reworked Project is now online, a project where artists have been invited to rework ‘Screws’:

http://reworked.nilsfrahm.com

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http://www.durtonstudio.com

http://www.erasedtapes.com

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February 3, 2013 at 9:33 pm

Ten Mile Stereo

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Ryan Francesconi & Mirabai Peart ‘Road To Palios’ (Bella Union)
A collaboration between two gifted musicians; Francesconi’s immaculate acoustic guitar playing and his partner Peart’s beautiful violin. Francesconi is also a key member of Joanna Newsom’s band and his own solo LP ‘Parables’ is among the finest albums of recent years. ‘Road to Palios’ is a life-changing journey.


Oliveray ‘Wonders’ (Erased Tapes)
This gem was put out a few years back by Berlin-based label Erased Tapes and continues to reveal more with every single listen. A stunning collaboration between Nils Frahm and Peter Broderick (Olive and Ray are the authors’ middle names) includes two incredible covers, of Tiny Vipers (‘Dreamer’) and Efterklang (‘Harmonics’).


Cheval Sombre ‘Mad Love’ (Sonic Cathedral)
Cheval Sombre is the pseudonym for New York-based Christopher Porpora, a poet-turned-musician whose debut self-titled lp was released in 2009. Cheval Sombre’s ‘Mad Love’ album was one of the hidden gems of last year. A beautiful and rewarding collection on the Sonic Cathedral label.


Nat Birchall ‘Sacred Dimension’ (Gondwana Records)
Dubbed ‘Spiritual Jazz’, I picked up Birchall’s (a UK-based saxophonist)’Sacred Dimension’ lp somewhat by chance (via the always-trustworthy speakers of Plugd Records). ‘Sacred Dimension’ is an incredible odyssey of an album and provides a moving experience for the listener.


The Great Balloon Race ‘Cardboard’
‘Animals Burning’ is the album-opener from this very talented Cork-based band whose debut album ‘Cardboard’ was released at the end of last year. Ambitious and complex. A Band with a very bright future indeed.

The Dodos ‘No Color’ (Wichita)
I First discovered The Dodos by their ‘Visiter’ Album; a wonderful showcase of the talents of this American duo; Meric Long and Logan Kroeber. Now, on their fourth album – ‘No Color’ (Witchita Records) – the band will soon embark on a European tour supporting Tucson Arizona’s Calexico.


Broadcast ‘Berberian Sound Studio’ OST (Warp)
The stunning soundtrack by Warp’s Broadcast for the equally-stunning second film by British director Peter Strickland. Like all things Warp, the soundtrack should be purchased on vinyl to get the optimum benefit of the amazing sleeve.


Nils Frahm & Anne Müller 7fingers (Erased Tapes)
Collaboration between Berlin-based musicians and friends; Frahm and Müller. Anne Müller’s cello is breath-taking while Frahm’s immaculate attention to detail on production duties are on full display here. Electronica and cello combine to stunning effect.


Birds Of Passage ‘Highwaymen in Midnight Masks’ E.P.
Birds of Passage is multi-talented New Zealand-based artist Alicia Merz. Across all her LPs to date (‘Dear And Unfamiliar’, ‘Without The World’, and current ‘Winter Lady’) her music is simply breathtaking. Also, in her stunning back-catalogue is the ‘Highwaymen in Midnight Masks’ EP. Mastering duties by Nils Frahm.


Hidden Highways ‘Hidden Highways’ E.P. (Out On A Limb Records)
The stunning debut self-titled E.P. from Tim V. Smyth and Carol Anne McGowan recalls the magic chemistry of Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood recordings, while equally reminiscient of the dark folk tales of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. The E.P. features the incredible cover of Jeff Alexander’s ‘Come Wander With Me.’ Hidden Highways’ debut album will be released in Spring 2013 and is sure to be one of the albums of the year.

Chosen One: Nils Frahm

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Interview with Nils Frahm.

Nils Frahm is at the forefront of the neo-classical realm of modern music. His output on the awe-inspiring Erased Tapes label is quite staggering. With each compelling release, new possibilities are attained through Frahm’s endless exploration of sound. The German composer’s piano compositions are works of tender beauty encompassing a spiritual realm steeped in cinematic wonder. ‘Screws’ is Frahm’s latest release and what a beautiful work of art it is.

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry

The album ‘Screws’ was recorded whilst Frahm was recovering from a broken thumb, that resulted in four screws being inserted into the injured limb. Using nine of his fingers, Frahm  wrote a short piece on his piano. Using a single, dynamic microphone close on the piano, the music was recorded. The album was given wings and soon nine pieces were written and recorded. ‘Screws’ is divine piano music. Each note of every chord transports you to another dimension of unknown pleasures. The piano pieces have shades of spiritual jazz, classical and ambient spheres of sound. The spirits of Thelonious Monk, Claude Debussy and Philip Glass swirl magically inside the cosmic space. The album itself is a “special gift” to his fans, that will be released on his 30th birthday in early December on Erased Tapes. Nils Frahm’s music is just that, a “special gift”. From 2009’s ‘Wintermusik’ and ‘The Bells’, to last year’s ‘Felt’, Frahm’s music consistently transcends space and time. From his Berlin based Durton studio, some of the most interesting and compelling sounds in contemporary music has been created, and continues to do so.
I had the great fortune to recently have a conversation with Nils Frahm by phone, from his Berlin apartment. Fresh from the previous week’s Erased Tapes Anniversary sold-out tour, Frahm performed alongside labelmates Ólafur Arnalds, Anne Müller, A Winged Victory For The Sullen across Europe’s finest venues. During our conversation, Nils discusses his new album ‘Screws’, his love for jazz music, collecting musical instruments, his fascination with recording and the ease in which he finds his way around in sounds.

Hi Nils. Congratulations on your new album. I love ‘Screws’, it’s really beautiful. It would be great if you could talk about the recording of the album.

Yes, of course. Well, I had this accident where I broke my thumb and I went home and figured that I probably can’t play the piano and I tried anyway. Then I wrote a little piece, and because I was still handicapped, instead of putting up six, eight microphones and making a big deal out of it, I just used one little, dynamic microphone, like a really old, crappy one and put it really close on the piano somewhere and hit record. It’s all recorded in mono just maybe because out of laziness. But I really liked how it sounded. The sound of that recording was something I’ve never heard from the piano before, and I recorded ‘The Bells’ on that piano and all kinds of music so, I know it, I know it very well. But this particular sound really inspired me to try a few more pieces and so every other day I would leave the microphone where it was and just hit record and play something. In two and a half weeks I had all the songs and mixing was easy, just one microphone you know, it was really, the most easy-going project you can imagine, so it was really for the fun of it. My main intention was to just keep writing anyway, just because it helped me to stay in a good mood you know, because it felt like I’m still able to do what I want to do and it helped me to not feel too sorry for myself.

The first album I heard from you is ‘Felt’, your previous album.

‘Felt’ was recorded in my studio too, on the same piano. But you can tell like, how different it sounds, depending on what microphone you use or what strategy of recording, production use of instrument and it really changes its whole tone. It sounds like a different piano to me. I found it very interesting and I felt like the style of compositions that I played really fitted the old tiny sound versus old jazz record. I was listening to a lot of Thelonious Monk but also Jan Johansson, and I think there is quite a bit of Jan Johannson in there too maybe.

It’s funny a friend of mine was telling me how your new album ‘Screws’ reminds him of Keith Jarrett and Debussy, mixed together.

Yeah, it really has a dreamy jazz feel to it, but it’s definitely not too jazzy. I think it’s just because it is more like what you would call in jazz as spiritual; like there is some kind of jazz spiritual thing to it, I think. That’s a part of my musical background too-I listen to a lot of jazz music.

You must have a certain few names that you always come back to?

Yeah, I really like Gerry Mulligan on the saxophone. I’m quite obsessed with Roland Kirk, he’s also a great saxophone player. I really like, well of course John Coltrane, Miles Davis, but also very old stuff like Teddy Wilson-piano from the 40’s, he’s amazing. Clare Fischer, a piano player I really like too. Let me think, I’m a big fan of Horace Silver. Horace Silver is a great piano player and of course Bill Evans and the likes. But yeah, Gerry Mulligan, like I said is really my favourite saxophone players. The other famous saxophone player is John Surman. He’s on ECM Records. A lot of ECM stuff like Eberhard Weber. I really like Art Blakey especially his weird stuff, like his drum solo stuff is amazing. Johnny Hodges-the horn player. Johnny Hodges played the saxophone with Duke Ellington. There is so much man, I can’t think of everything right now.

You’ve produced a lot of albums and musicians in your studio. The most recent album I came across is Birds Of Passage.

Oh, Birds Of Passage I just did the mastering for.

What does the mastering entail? I’m interested to know.

Well, mastering can be kind of almost mixing in some cases. I think in her case I did quite a lot in terms of adding the right reverb and messing with the sound to a degree using old tape machines, maybe take some digital edge off. It quite depends on the material I get sent but often I do quite a lot because people kind of, don’t get to where they want to go in the mixing stage, and for me to take it to a different place.

It must be interesting because you’re at a different stage of the music, where you’re at the end of the stage of the song.

Yeah, usually in the mastering you don’t do too much. People say good mastering if you don’t hear what you change but it sounds better. But sometimes that is not enough. Sometimes you really have to change it, in terms of making it sound better. So, when I get a really good mix where I feel like someone really knew what they wanted and they got there and then I would just check everything; polish it a little bit, pull one frequency out, and that’s it. But I think in her case, I went quite wild with the weapons that I used.

Because the album is cinematic, it feels very intimate listening to the recordings.

Yeah, I think she was very happy with the result. It sounded very different before. I have more like a creative approach to mastering and I think people also ask me to master their records because they’d like my sound and the sounds that I capture here. So, I allow myself to do more like a creative mastering than just the technical insurance. It depends really on the artist and on the project.

You had the Erased Tapes Anniversary tour recently. That must have been amazing to play with all the different labelmates/musicians.

Yeah, that was fantastic. The whole tour went really well. All the shows were sold out. We had such a good time.

Staying on Erased Tapes, I love all the collaborations you have done, like for example ‘oliveray’, which you did with Peter Broderick. I have that on vinyl. It’s really magical. I love your covers of Efterklang and Tiny Vipers. As an artist it must be great to collaborate with like-minded artists.

Oh yeah, it is a blast really, as you can imagine. We just have a good time and trust each other. We really just are able to always really do what we want to do, no compromise and that’s quite fantastic. That’s what I really like about the whole scene that’s it’s just about music and nothing else, you know.

The way it should be.

Yeah, a really romantic kind of situation.

You’re living in Berlin. Does the city itself and living there inspire you as a composer?

Well yeah, I mean I’m not sure when I went here first, the first two years I hadn’t the easiest time to write music for some reason. But after a while, when I settled a little more, it really felt like a good place. I think it has more something to do with the career I have here, which I really love and yeah, the environment I can work in here is quite magical and for some reason make interesting music.

And your studio itself Nils, when did that come into operation? When did you start recording?

Actually when I was 13, 14 I started collecting musical instruments and from that point on, I was really fascinated by recording. I had school bands where I was always the guy who was being in charge of the tape machine, recording the band rehearsals. Later on, I got a computer and recorded on computer and I was quite stunned by the possibilities. The kind of possibilities to just multi-track, overdub. Yeah, I was really a big fan of that, so I really kept developing my skills and trained myself, like did a lot of listening and comparing. For some reason I find my way around in sounds very easily. I can always tell the difference. I can always hear pretty much everything well and can understand and also maybe talk about it or when somebody has an idea, I might know like, what they want. A little bit like understanding what is an 80’s sound, what is a 70’s sound, what is a dirty sound, what is a clear sound, what is a clean sound, you know like all this vocabulary and the way you need to communicate in music production. It feels quite natural for me, quite easy. So yeah, I was just really, really obsessed with studio equipment like microphones and all that to capture for me, what I would call an ideal tone, you know.

You said Nils that you started collecting instruments. I wonder what were the first instruments that you collected?

I had Fender Rhodes at one point when I was 13 and then I bought a Moog synthesizer and some old Roland Juno 60 synthesizers and I used it in a band and then I took it out of the rehearsal room and set up a little studio at home and that was basically the start of it.

How is your hand now?

Oh, much better, much better.

I wonder in terms of your next projects, what’s your next album going to be like?

Well, I’m not quite sure but I just bought a grand piano and I would really like to see how that sounds and probably I will build an album around it. The new piano, it’s a very special instrument. It’s a grand piano but it has felt to dampen the sound and it’s the only grand piano I’ve heard of and seen and my piano builder too. It’s quite a fantastic instrument. We had a little battle with different kinds of musicians. Dustin O’ Halloran wanted to buy it and Olive…but yeah, I was the lucky one.

I’m sure there will be a beautiful album soon with that so.

Yeah, I hope it will sound good. I have the feeling it will.

What is the music that inspires you?

I think my favourite album these days might be Walter Fähndrich, it’s a very very unpopular album. It’s on ECM, it’s a solo viola piece. It’s a viola player playing solo and it’s quite stunning. It’s really hard to describe. It reminds me of hearing ‘Music For 18 Musicians’ the first time, like some music where you just can’t believe it. I’m also mixing a song for Colin Stetson, he’s a saxophone player and I’m pretty amazed by his work too. It really is one of the best music I’ve ever heard. I really like Gentleman Losers. I have two albums, one is called ‘Dust Land’ and the other is self titled. They both came out on City Centre Offices. And there is one really, really great release from Tape and Bill Wells. That is one of my favourite things in the world. The album is called ‘Fugue’. You have to get it.

I will.

Really good, really good.

It was lovely talking to you Nils. Thanks for your time.

Oh, thanks for the great questions. I will see you at the show in Cork.

Nils Frahm performs at the Half Moon Theatre, Cork on Thursday 22nd November and at the Unitarian Church, Dublin on Friday 23rd November

‘Screws’ is available now as a free download. Physical edition of ‘Screws’ will be released on the 9th December on Erased Tapes.

http://www.durtonstudio.com/projects/detail/project/63

http://www.erasedtapes.com

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November 13, 2012 at 5:04 pm