In rounding off his Encores trilogy of EPs by releasing them as one full-length package, Nils Frahm invites questions about whether or not they were always designed to fit together, as well as an obvious pressure that he initially seemed to have avoided by opting for short-form releases – All Encores, inevitably, will now be judged against last year’s superb All Melody LP. Frahm’s calling card has always been his mastery of subtlety and, whether he intended it or otherwise, Encores 1, 2 & 3 tessellate impressively neatly. The throughline between them has less to do with the instrumental palette – although the fact that all three of them, whilst fundamentally different, are similarly minimalist helps – and instead is more indebted to mood and atmosphere. Encores 1 sets the proverbial stall out – piano, harmonium and not a great deal else – and now, with the benefit of a little bit of distance from its release, feels like a reaction to the density of All Melody.
The progression on Encores 2 is clear; scratchily recorded so as to pick up an underlying layer of ambient noise, there’s a touch more urgency to the compositions, more of a sense of the piano melodies actually leading somewhere. The destination is Encores 3, released now for the first time, and its pointedly experimental approach to electronics – whether that be on the beguiling glitchy vocal interlude ‘Artificially Intelligent’ or either of the quiet behemoths that follow; soft tympanic menace characterises the near-twelve minute ‘All Armed’, whilst ‘Amirador’ plays like the uncertainty after the storm, all murky, barely-there synths. In doing so, it leads us neatly back to where we started with Encores 1, to the ominous hush of wide-open spaces. All Encores demands to be heard in its entirety; this is no companion piece, but a thoughtful progression all its own.