Nils Frahm – All Melody (5 stars)

Nils Frahm – All Melody

Reshapes the classical music rulebook for 21st century ears

For two years, Berlin-based composer Nils Frahm has been working towards the production of a record that manages to depict his own imagination and internal musical dialogue without restriction. The result, All Melody, is a triumph in its captivating use of contrasting ideas, unconventional instrumentation and mesmerizing builds, which work together in a way that seems effortless.

'Sunson', one of the album's longer tracks, epitomises this perfectly, with Frahm using three notes as a foundation, then working in variations on this theme. By the end, there are so many wonderful colours and textures in play that something initially simple has become a sprawling canvas of melody and harmony. The album also utilises vocals to interesting effect throughout, from opener 'The Whole Universe Wants to Be Touched' which enlists a chorus of voices to build a haunting and ethereal ambience, to 'Human Range' where the wordless singing imitates the timbre of a string orchestra.

Elsewhere, there are real strings, the sounds of a trumpet, synths, a pipe organ, harmonium and other orchestral instruments, which merge together to form a unified whole. Title track 'All Melody' most clearly underlines the album's mission statement, with its skittish electronics and reverb ebbing and flowing as the emphasis falls on the developing melody.

Frahm is part of a new wave of composers, innovating and reshaping the rules of classical music for 21st century ears. His unorthodox approach to composition has led him to forge a partnership between piano and electronics which produces a musical landscape that is rich and entirely absorbing. All Melody is somehow more expansive than previous releases, despite its titular focus on the intricacy of individual melodies and recapitulated themes. What Frahm ultimately strives for, and succeeds in creating, is a minimalism that maximises the beauty, emotion and essence of the entire musical picture, without losing any hint of subtlety or finesse.

Out now. Nils Frahm plays Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow, Thu 1 Mar.

Nils Frahm

Contemporary composer and pianist from Berlin.