Posted on Mar 4th 2011 01:27 am
NILS FRAHM & ANNE MÜLLER
Erased Tapes 2011
09 Tracks. 42mins56secs
In the last couple of years, Berlin-based musician and composer Nils Frahm has become quite a ubiquitous presence, appearing alongside a number of musicians or opening up his studio to them (Peter Broderick, Simon Scott, Greg Haines, F.S. Blumm and Deaf Center to name but a few), as well as releasing his own music on labels such as Sonic Pieces, Kning Disk, Hush Records or Erased Tapes with who he has recently signed.
Originally published on Hush Records and now benefiting of a full release through Erased Tapes, 7fingers is the first collaborative effort between Frahm and Anne Müller, a Berliner herself, and a cellist who has been experimenting with loops, electronics and textures in her performance for some time. The result is a rather stunning collection of contrasted cinematic and pastoral pieces which, although partly rooted in modern classical, incorporates electronic glitches and interferences, occasional beats and intense acoustic sound treatment. All too often in this type of projects, either half of the equation end up feeling slightly forced onto the other or, worse, appears totally out of place. This is not the case here though. Although there is often a clear demarkation between acoustic instruments and electronics, the pair are keen to blur the boundaries between the two, creating a sort of ephemeral no man’s land which they consequently fill with expressive melodies and exquisite soundscapes.
The album opens with the plaintive drone of a cello which is rapidly dubbed and layered onto itself, the delay becoming increasingly part of the fabric of the piece as it progresses. The title track, which follows, switches to a much more electronic setting, as micro beats and glitches are placed against airy string work and occasional dissonant metallic tones. This is developed further on Show Your Teeth, Journey For A Traveller and Duktus, each piece appearing to deconstruct the source themes a little bit more, and surround them with soft glitches and quick rhythmic patterns. There is something of the process that has served Murcof over the years here, but the electronics are much more stripped down, while the lead strings and piano motifs are for the most part left intact.
When the obvious processing drops, it is still possible to find traces of it in the circling loop on Let My Key Be C for instance, or with the discreet film sample heard toward the end of Because This Must Be/Augmentation or flittering found sounds of Reminds To Teeth. The latter also sees Frahm’s most prominent piano performance of this record, to particularly great effect as notes line up in echoing patterns while the sombre tones of the cello ripples over them. Perhaps the biggest oddity of this record is to be found in the last piece, Long Enough, which combines the delicate acoustic textures and electronic treatments into a more ambitious sequence, but as the beat kicks in, Frahm starts singing, and is soon joined by Müller, their voices harmonizing rather convincingly over a backdrop of strings, acoustic guitars and beats.
7fingers treads a very unusual, and somewhat risky, line here, but Nils Frahm and Anne Müller do so with great reserve, resulting in this album being at once elegant and effective, its sumptuous melodies served by clever sound settings to create an extremely evocative piece of work.