Considering nonkeen’s debut album (the gamble) dropped less than six months ago, and its most well-known member (Piano Day impresario Nils Frahm) kept busy with F.S. Blumm, Ólafur Arnalds, and Robert friggin’ De Niro in the interim, it’d be easy to dismiss oddments of the gamble as a pile of soothing table scraps.
It’d also be wrong. Turns out the Berlin trio—Frahm, in full improv mode, alongside lifelong friends Sepp Singwald and Frederic Gmeiner—were on such a creative roll over the past couple years they ended up making two entirely different albums. A coin toss decided last February’s LP; the best of the rest was saved for this summer.
If there’s any connective tissue between nonkeen’s first couple full-lengths, it’s a flat-out refusal to sound anything like “Nils Frahm jamming in a basement with his drinking buddies.” Which is funny, because nonkeen is basically Nils Frahm jamming in a basement with his drinking buddies. Except they know better than to share their noodly parts with the outside world. From the propulsive locked grooves of “Glow” to the Radiophonic lullabies of “Back and Forth,” the final product remains completely focused. It also exists outside any particular subgenre or scene, opting to dip into slight ambient, pop, and experimental jazz stretches instead.
Neo-classical music this is not; it’s more like Frahm’s Lonely Island phase (a genre-hopping, playful experiment with lifelong friends), and if you’ve ever seen Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, we all know how much fun that is.