(By Gene Yraola)
Multi-instrumentalist…or more like experimentalist Nils Frahm made a third return to NYC in support of his stellar SPACES record on Erased Tapes Records. Following an added appearance at Glasslands the night prior (and perhaps his final appearance at the venue given its impending closure), Frahm provided one of his finest, near-turning point performances yet at a sold-out Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew in the city’s Upper West Side. Frahm’s music clearly envelopes the use of atmospheric touches but inside this high arched dome church, Frahm sounded as huge and mountainous as he has ever been.
Beyond the small spaced/closed venues many have become used to seeing of Frahm and his contemporaries of the genre, the Upper West Side church not only proved that Frahm and artists of that nature can fill house, but also pack a wallop in sound. Never before has Frahm’s pulsating percussions/beats and textured notes been this amplified in emotion. Immediately upon performing “Says,” the highlight track of SPACES, there was a clearly a sense of urgency and greater importance in Frahm’s velocity, going noticeably harder and pushing himself farther stylistically than he usually has come across in past NY shows. His more electronic portions of his set sounded as natural and fluid as they’ve ever been, with Frahm finally given the bass treatment his music rightfully deserves. The production values backing Frahm have clearly stepped up to match his more dynamic, beating set. If there ever was a guide to create the perfect ambient performance while maintaining simplicity and minimalism, Frahm clearly would have his name in the title.
Where Frahm excels even greater however was on his solo piano selections from his SCREWS recording. Despite the vast open air space dwarfing Frahm, he remarkably brings the subtle, light touches of his minimalist piano miniatures to a whole new level of emotional output. With the simplicity of these songs, it’s expected for their propensity to not only get lost in Frahm’s more recent electronic pieces but generally be less inclined to sonically have an impact in open air. Defiantly Frahm performed them in absolute sublimeness that not only lucidly filled, but emotionally gravitated the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew. If this is what Frahm can do with a space this big, it’s almost unfathomable to think of the wonders he can do (and has done ) with much tighter venues.
As Nils has undoubtedly built himself a repertoire that is quickly becoming recognizable yet distinctively unique onto its crafter, he has created a perfect marriage between his recordings and live-performance experience. Given the sophistication of his instruments, never are two of Frahm’s performances ever quite sound the same (even with the same setlists), but due to Frahm’s talent for merging melodic tones with oddly alluring synths on his recordings, the game of comparing his performances to on record are nothing but addictive. After hearing Frahm perform multiple times throughout his stops to NYC and LA, we’ve only discovered new details with every repeat listen to his albums (especially that of SPACES).
While tonight’s performance is far from being considered career-defining, Frahm’s thundering showmanship in the cold of November is undoubtedly one of the highest profile classical-ambient showcases ever that not only meets the hype but excessively surpassed it. What Frahm did for ambient, and even contemporary classical artists everywhere, is prove not only the demand exists hear such music in non-traditional spaces given the right repertoire to back it up, but also the ability to charismatically and emotionally compel an audience with the simple formula of a man and his piano.This entry was posted in General and tagged erased tapes, nils frahm, spaces on .
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