A piano selection constructed across a decade…
Old Friends New Friends Artwork

Nils Frahm could scarcely be accused of being a maximalist – sitting at the cutting edge of a generation of musicians blending modern classical with electronic music, his whispered incantations have a frosted eeriness to them. ‘Old Friends, New Friends’ however takes this a step further – a decade-long series of piano meditations, often little more than fractured icicles of white and black notes. Amid its spartan templates, however, you can find warmth, humour, and companionship.

A 23 track double album, the compositional sense at show on ‘Old Friends, New Friends’ is worthy of Satie or Sakamoto; opener ‘4:33 (a tribute to john cage)’ blushes with intimacy, while ‘Late’ and ‘Berduxa’ are blessed with a twilight pensiveness.

‘Rain Take’ thrives on a subtle sense of the ambient, the music blurring into a passing storm; ‘All Numbers End’, though, is slightly more direct, the melodic interplay of Nils’ performance taking on a Baroque hue.

Constructed over a decade-long span, ‘Old Friends, New Friends’ feels remarkably cohesive. Yes, some aspects do spill outwards – the elongated ‘As A Reminder’ for example – but generally its trim, incisive musicianship embraces simplicity, boiling each idea down to its very essence.

Curiously, though, the project is never overtly cerebral. The wry juxtaposition of ‘The Chords’ and ‘The Chords Broken Down’ emphasises the underlying humour and character of Frahm’s work, while song titles like ‘Nils Has A New Piano’ are smile-inducing in their bluntness.

Closing with the companionship of ‘Old Friend’, you’re left to muse on Nils Frahm’s relationship with the piano, and the role of creation in all of our lives. Time passes, fractures heal, yet music in its simplest, most direct form goes ever onwards.

8/10

Words: Robin Murray

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