Tag Archives: Nils Frahm

Album of the Day: Various Artists, “1+1=X”

With 10 full years of operation under their belt, Erased Tapes, the label known for their beautiful releases that often join contemporary composition with experimental electronics and ambient textures, has been celebrating for a full year, and 1+1=X is one of the fine results. While compilations are nothing new for Erased Tapes, this release is more of a collaboration than a simple collection of unrelated tracks. Contributing artists recorded their songs in Berlin’s analog Vox-Ton Studio, sharing space and instruments, which makes for exciting cross-pollination. Continue reading

The Glorious Mixes of Late Night Tales

late night tales

Returning home late from a club or a night out can often lead to indecision over what music should be played during the wee after-hours. There are those who still wish for the party to continue and are in need of uplifting and up-tempo music, while others may want to wind down and crave soothing tunes to carry them through to sleep. Then there are those who sit somewhere in between with varying—and often intoxicated—energy levels present, making a consensus a difficult prospect. Continue reading

Ten Records that Blur The Line Between Electronic and Classical Music

Murc of Wagner

Murcof x Vanessa Wagner by Pierre Emmanuel Rastoin.

Considering how closely aligned electronic and classical music have been for decades—from string-laden samples and Philip Glass-like synth grooves to questionable covers like Tiësto’s dopey trance anthem take on Samuel Barber—it should come as no surprise that line between the two has become blurred over time. In fact, it seems pointless to peg many of today’s artists to either.

“I have always been surprised to hear my albums classified as ‘ambient,'” says Polish composer Michał Jacaszek. “They may have ambient elements—like deep reverb or delayed textures—but I prefer an ‘electro-acoustic’ label.”

“I don’t think I’d ever classify my own music in any modern classical sense,” adds producer/12k founder Taylor Deupree. While he’s collaborated with the legendary Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto several times (Disappearance, Perpetual), Deupree sees more parallels between traditional and progressive music forms in the work of his longtime labelmate, Kenneth Kirschner.

“Ken often uses the sounds of traditional classical music,” explains Deupree, “but with very modern and very minimalist compositions. I think that’s where the interest and strength lies in this type of music—where the inspiration comes from people like [Morton] Feldman and [John] Cage.”

That’s certainly been the case with a recent string of records from Mexican producer Murcof and pianist Vanessa Wagner. Last year’s Statea LP reinterpreted everything from John Adams to Aphex Twin, and this summer’s EP.02 pays tribute to Philip Glass, Arvo Pärt, and Morton Feldman without tarring the originals in techno-fusion tropes.

“The piano is the starting point of our project,” explains Wagner. “It’s important that electronic effects do not swallow its sound, even if it is sometimes distorted. Similarly, it also seemed very important to stay true to the scores of composers that we interpret.”

The same can often be said for post-classical provocateurs like Alarm Will Sound, the chamber orchestra famous for flipping Aphex Twin on his already twisted head. The following feature isn’t about concert halls invading the club, however, or vice versa. This is closer to the middle ground where it’s never clear what’s being “played” and what’s being “produced.”

Here are 10 essential classically-inclined electronic albums.

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Album of the Day: Nonkeen, “Oddments of the Gamble”

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.

Andrew Parks