The first of four nights of ambient bliss in London
Ten minutes into a four-night sold-out Barbican residency, Nils Frahm picks up the microphone lying on a mat at the front of the stage: “Hopefully everything works out tonight. Sometimes things go wrong, sometimes things go better. But this… I had a very good start to the show, I think.”
The Berlin-based composer has long been a pioneer in the realm of soaring contemporary classical glitchy experimental electronica. His seventh studio album, ‘All Melody’, was released last month on Erased Tapes to critical acclaim – crammed with synchronous investigations into abstract melody and rhythm. It’s his most ambitious and inquisitive collection to date; ‘The Whole Universe Wants To Be Touched’ is a brief ethereal welcome to the evening with choral samples, before the weaving ‘Sunson’ demands complete attention.
The stage is set in two halves; to the left, a felt-prepared piano is the centrepiece of a homely-looking picture, where to the right, a grand piano stretches out beside a god-knows-what line-up of harmoniums and analogue synthesisers. It’s chaos at best, a key-enthusiast’s fantasy, but the ease and elegance with which which Frahm moves between instruments is mesmeric. I suppose it’s to be expected of a man whose latest release both sonically and thematically orbited a single, self-created room, transformed from broadcast centre to bespoke studio in Berlin’s iconic Funkhaus. Even now on a vastly different stage, Frahm cares as much about the sound as the actual music.