‘Encores 1’ sees Nils Frahm follow up his recent full-length release ‘All Melody’ with a short helping of romantic piano pieces, attempting to combine raw beauty with his love of experimentation.
The German neo-classical-come-ambient-come-post-minimalism composer has dabbled in numerous sound styles, with ‘All Melody’ showing off Frahm’s desire to add an electronic layer into his compositional game. ‘Encores 1’ is quite the contrast in that regard. The EP is not piano heavy as much as it is piano dependent, with its classical-inspired pieces feeling as grand as Frahm’s weapon of choice.
‘Ringing’, the EP’s second track, generates insight into the kind of composer Nils Frahm is. The piece packs in heaps of melody, but it isn’t “all melody”, if you like mild puns. Frahm’s playing skips and transitions between pretty, concise groupings of notes and mysterious moments that drop out of key before launching back into key. The way Frahm experiments here isn’t too unlike a lot of the work we heard on his 2013 live album ‘Spaces’.
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The key word is ‘melancholy’, and if the performer was attempting to translate his mood through his music here, Nils Frahm must’ve been feeling a great deal of sadness. EP opener ‘The Roughest Trade’ not only gets this across with its faint melodies, but also its natural recording style – you can hear Frahm’s fingers hitting off the keys, and his body essentially rustling in the background, so you know this is a real person making this very real music. ‘To Thomas’ is similar, and also perhaps the most impactful tune on the EP, funeral-esque and coherently-structured.
The eleven-and-a-half-minute ‘Harmonium in the Well’ sees the EP out by trying something a little different. Drenched in harmonium, the piece is built on very few chords, very few core melodies, but a lot of unease and tension, beautiful in its dramatic nuance.
We’re so used to hearing Nils Frahm create vast, soaring towers out of his work, with hefty albums made up of hefty pieces of music. On that note, it’s difficult to deduce how essential a listen ‘Encores 1’ is. Still, at the very least, you’ll appreciate Frahm’s artistry and passion as a performer, at the most, you’ll find yourself getting lost in every note he plays.