Over the last couple of months I have been listening a lot to Helen St John’s ‘Theme From Flashdance’ which was originally composed by Giorgio Moroder and used in a very smart way in the recent Pedro Almodovar film ‘Wild Tales’. It doesn’t do a lot but what it does it does vey well and it is very very syncopated…
That is sort of how I feel about Nils Frahm. As a live performer and album artist he does the same thing over and over but they way he changes the format and sound, and he has some really beautiful melodies in the mix which helps, makes his music flow along in a very pleasing way.
You can hear the influences quite clearly… Or rather maybe you can place influences on him that he may or may not have grown up on. Obvious choices for example would be Wim Mertens or Keith Jarrett – though he really doesn’t have the jazz chops of Mr Jarrett but does do that thing where he sings along to his own playing that you hear all over Jarrett’s live work. Anyway, my gut feeling, going by his age, would be that he is a classically trained pianist that grew up listening to trance music and learnt from early studio experiments that if he made that music but removed the kicks and kept the syncopation and fx and played the classical melodies in and around this you could have something new and interesting.
And thats what we have. Basically a beautiful classical concert to a load of young people that are probably just as happy on a dancefloor with friends and pharmaceuticals as they are in The Roundhouse on a Bank Holiday Monday listening to Mr Frahm.
At the start of the evening he moves from organ to piano to keyboard pieces and then slowly adds electronics building up and back down again with those big modular bleeps and blops arriving with a 4/4 kick about half an hour in. It’s not a dance fest, I saw one finger pointed in the air, but there is lots of clapping and appreciation for someone who is basically playing with their studio live on stage and having fun with it.
One other thing with Frahm is that he seems thoroughly likeable. On the mic towards the end he says “this is is the last song, though as you all know in a professional concert its not really the last song you just have to clap a bit louder after this one and I’ll come and play another one. And anyway, it was such an effort to set up all this crap I am definitely playing another one”. He also laughs at his own stage set which he says looks like something he would have made himself when at his Steiner school as a child. He’d be good company over a pint am sure.
So, a thoroughly enjoyable experience that happily moved from shade to light and was heavily heavily syncopated and played, often with one hand over here doing something totally different to another hand over there, by a chap clearly in control and having fun.