Nils Frahm – Spaces (2013)

Nils Frahm is a German composer based in Berlin. He combines elements of classical and electronic music in his compositions. Frahm is classically trained on the piano and often plays multiple kinds of keyboards during his performances. Spaces is a live album that was released in 2013. Spaces is a really neat album that features minimal, yet progressive compositions played with an interesting duality in a mixture of electronic and classical music.

“Says” is a really neat composition. A soft synth arpeggio loops and gradually gets louder. While it is harmonically more progressive than most minimalist music, it still has a reserved approach. This piece has a large emphasis on structure and texture. The ostinato introduced at the beginning of the track is lopped until the track ends. For the most part, it is the only feature that is constant; every other voice changes around it. As the song progresses, the sound gets more and more chaotic. The arpeggio that was constant for most of the song changes towards the end to outline a clear chord progression.

One clever track title is “Improvisation For Coughs and a Cell Phone”, mocking the sporadic ‘participation’ that audiences sometimes play during live performances. There are a few audible coughs here and there. After a sustained chord is played, someone’s phone rings.

Frahm has a really interesting approach to minimalism. Many of the tracks on this album can be compared to other minimalist composers such as Philip Glass and Steve Reich. While Glass and Reich released a handful of electronic works — namely Glass’s work in the 1970’s, “Music in 12 Parts”, and Reich’s “Electric Counterpoint” series —  a lot of their work revolves around a more classically-based orchestration. While it is clear that Frahm is heavily influenced by Glass and Reich, he makes a very clear separation from his music and theirs. With the development of electronic music technology, Frahm has access to countless sounds and textures. In some pieces, however, he still pays homage to classical music by using piano. In Spaces, Frahm uses layered synths and keyboards to create complex textures amidst a simple composition style. I really enjoyed listening to this album. Each song is clearly different from the next, yet they are all clearly his and his alone.

Favorite Track: Says

Nils Frahm - Spaces