Album Review: Nils Frahm’s Dream Studio Pays Off on All Melody

The modern composer creates the space needed to realize his complex vision




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The Lowdown: Over the last two years, Nils Frahm worked on deconstructing and reconstructing his dream studio, Saal 3, in Berlin’s historic Funkhaus. The revised vintage space is a fitting setup given Frahm made a name for himself as an innovative modern composer with an unconventional approach for mixing analog sounds. But what he strives to create — a blend of minimalist slow progressions, occasionally verging into soft-toned techno — is music so hands-on that the only way it could improve is if he builds the space needed to do so. It paid off, and All Melody, his seventh studio album, makes it clear why.

The Good: As intentional and open-ended as Frahm’s creative process behind and during the making of All Melody seems, there’s still an overwhelming unexpectedness to the record. A closer look at the liner notes will reveal Frahm admits it didn’t turn out as initially planned. That’s for the best, because many of the songs sound like he let himself get carried away. From the dejected, somber piano on “My Friend the Forest” to the thrilling, endless spiral that is nine-minute opus “Sunson”, Frahm is on a high that’s both incredibly organized and full of improvisation.

The Bad: Frahm gets a little help from choir ensemble SHARDS, but sometimes they overwhelm the songs. When his instrumentals create a world of their own, it feels intrusive to hear occasional choral harmonies enter the song for a flourish and nothing else.

The Verdict: All Melody is Nils Frahm’s clearest example of how a musical space can serve an artist and makes a hell of a case for why musicians should seek out the perfect studio to record, or design, their work. By making a space that fits his creative style, Frahm found a way to give complex compositions even more room to weave themselves into the world while you listen.

Essential Tracks: “Sunson”, “My Friend the Forest”, and “Kaleidoscope”