Including new compositions as well as revisiting and reworking songs from his previous recordings The Bells and Felt, Berlin-based modern classical pianist and composer Nils Frahm has just released Spaces, his first live album on the Erased Tapes record label. But unlike a traditional live album recorded over one night, Spaces is more like a collage of live tracks collected from thirty odd concerts over a period of two years. Always keen on experimentation, Nils Frahm’s music truly blossoms in a live situation where the musician channels the energy of the “space” and that of the audience:
‘What I love most about playing in front of people has something to do with a certain kind of energy exchange. The attention and appreciation of my audience feeds back into my playing. It really seems as if there is a true and equal give and take between performer and listener, making me aware of how much I depend on my audience. And since the audience is different every night, the music being played will differ too. Every space I performed in has its own magic and spirit.’ – Nils Frahm
In Spaces, Nils Frahm transposes his trademark intimate recording style of capturing every ambient and static noise (creaking floorboards – the muted sound of piano hammers and strings – his own breathing etc.) to a live setting, integrating the physical surroundings and the sonic dynamics of the concert venue into the performance (see his “Improvisation for coughs and a cell phone”).
A relentless improviser, Nils Frahm constantly alternates between stripped down acoustic pieces on a grand piano or felt-prepared pianos and electronic numbers performed mainly on vintage analogue equipment such as synthesisers, Roland Juno keyboards or Fender Rhodes together with delay pedals, echo units and carefully placed microphones. Two separate and equally enthralling live versions of a track like “Says” see the musician explore the full sonic range of his material.
In that context, Nils Frahm’s obsession with classic equipment betrays a certain nostalgia for the sound produced by bands in the 1960s and 1970s on these same instruments. “They had to work out ways around these limitations and part of me thinks this is why they were so creative” he told Huffington Post, quoting the Beach Boys as an example. And his revival of analogue electronic music almost works as an homage to the German experimental bands of that era like Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream.