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Nils Frahm

Nils Frahm at First Unitarian Church, Los Angeles, CA, October 1st, 2013

Oct 05, 2013 Nils Frahm Photography by Laura Studarus Bookmark and Share

Nils Frahm took the stage at the First Unitarian Church in Los Angeles on Tuesday night with one simple request to the lighting engineer: that the moody pink and blue colored lights be replaced with a single white spotlight. It would be easy to editorialize why the Berlin-based, nu-classical pianist asked that the ambience be turned down. Perhaps he wanted the emotional content of his compositions to speak for themselves. But, as Frahm himself once said, “Music is about music.” More likely than not, Frahm just wanted to be able to see what he was doing. Still, as an audience member, the spotlight did illuminate one important point: there is no smoke and mirrors to a Nils Frahm live show. All the emotion caught in the back of your throat? Yup, that’s all him.

On tour alongside Olafur Arnalds and Hauschka, Frahm was in town to promote his forthcoming album Spaces (due out November 19 via Erased Tapes). Recorded live over the span of thirty concerts, it felt appropriate to hear cuts from the album in this context for the first time. From the hypnotic set opener “Says,” where the audience could watch Frahm all but literally melt into the act of making music, through to the dramatic clatter of “Hammers,” which crescendo to Frahm singing a “la la la”-style chorus, it was a demanding, set. Through the use of tape delay, Frahm was able to mimic several people performing, building up layers of both piano and synth. Often, he’d impressively split his attention between both instruments, pounding away at the piano with his right hand, while his left hand remained glued to his Rhodes. (This is not a skill to be taken lightly. Go ahead, try to rub your belly and pat your head. Report back.)

Frahm refused to cut his audience any slack, shaking things up by bringing pal Arnalds on stage for a fourhanded improvised duet, and using toilet brushes during the sixteen-minute epic, “For –Peter-Toilet Brushes-More” to pound out a dub-like beat on the top of the piano. (Let’s all take a moment to acknowledge that quitting piano lessons as a kid was our worst idea ever.) By the time his short set came to a close, it felt like he had trotted out a lifetime of ideas. Remarkably, every single one of them succeeded beautifully.



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