Nils Frahm – Encores 2

8.5

Encores 2” is the second volume of the “Encores” series, which Frahm himself describes as ‘companion’ pieces to his show-stopping 2018 LP “All Melody”. The Hamburg born, Berlin-based producer is best known for his extended aural soundscapes, juxtaposing classical and electronic textures through an unconventional combination of both  grand and various electric pianos, a Moog Taurus and a selection of drum machines.

Frahm’s initial plan included three individual releases, with their own distinct musical characters and themes; an idea which was then taken over completely by the ‘size and scale’ of his final LP. Instead, Frahm created the follow-up EPs, describing them as ‘musical islands that compliment All Melody’, and exploring the realms of Ambient, IDM, Jazz, and Neo-Classical textures.

Encores 1 encompasses five tracks created during the same sessions in Funkhaus Berlin in which “All Melody” was conceived; and includes material markedly more minimal than the majority of the rest of his work, comprising stripped back keys and solo harmonium.

Contrastingly, Encores 2 is more characteristically Frahm, recorded through an amplified stone well in Mallorca and defined by atmospheric crescendos and rich electro-acoustics against a backdrop of classical piano, strings and synth. The ‘well’ method creates an ambient swoosh reminiscent of sea breeze throughout, and the opening track, ‘Sweet Little Lie’, contains delicate piano arpeggios, encircling the surrounding white noise. It is characteristically full of joy and peace, and yet expressing a melancholic thoughtfulness; a quality purveyed through Frahm’s use of F Major. ‘A Walking Embrace’ builds upon this melancholy, drawing parallels with the output of Eric Satie and adding strings to enrich the echoing resonance of the keys.

The penultimate track ‘Talisman’ replaces the piano dominant first half of the EP with fluttery bass and rich, astral synths, set against a dramatic orchestral backdrop. The white noise remains a standout feature, further deepening and gaining energy in the buildup to Frahm’s final track; the engrossing 12-minute epic that is ‘Spells’. High energy and with a quality reminiscent of a philharmonic orchestra of intertwining polychromatic synths, which retain their character, the piece is texturally maximal, without compromising the harmonious individuality of each cosmic component.

Nothing short of an ambient odyssey, albeit less lengthy than many of Frahm’s previous releases, Encores 2 explores the outer realms of Frahm’s imagination, and his ability to examine the depth of human emotion through tones. Although in essence a companion piece to “All Melody”, it is most definitely not a subordinate one.