16. Nils Frahm – All Melody

Welcome to the Funkhaus

The biggest discovery of the decade for me personally has been classical and, particularly, neo-classical music. Thanks mostly to BBC 6 Music’s Mary Anne Hobbs, I’ve been introduced to the wonders of A Winged Victory for the Sullen, Peter Broderick and Olafur Arnalds. The doyen of the genre though, the absolute nonpareil, has to be German wunderkind, Nils Frahm.

His work leading up to All Melody was both gorgeous and innovative, whilst at times feeling sometimes chilly and sparse and, at others, a tad industrial. All Melody is a different beast altogether. Here, Frahm introduces an encyclopedia of new textures and rhythms. We have woodwind, brass and percussion. And, on several occasions, choirs that descend from astral planes. It is quite magnificent and adds layers of warmth and humanity to his work.

Frahm describes this evolution in style in the album’s sleeve notes as, “I wanted to hear drums I’d never heard before, accompanied by human voices. They would sing a song and it would sound like it was from a different space”. To achieve all of this he made his pipe organ sound like a drum machine and his drum machine like an orchestra of flutes. Pianos like voices and voices like cellos. Everything is in there, but nothing sounds like it was designed to. That is the absolute genius of this album.

All Melody was recorded at Frahm’s purpose built studio within Berlin’s legendary Funkhaus complex. His attention to detail in getting the sound just so is staggering and when you hear the likes of Sunson and Human Range you are grateful for his obsession with getting the sound and acoustics absolutely perfect.

If I have one criticism, it is that All Melody feels a little long (I’m looking at you, side three) and it would have benefitted from some, a little, editing. But I’m nitpicking now.

All Melody is probably the one album on my list that I could never envisage picking in any previous decade. But now, as 2019 draws to a close, it sits very naturally alongside all of these other fine albums.

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