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A Magazine for Sheffield


What was most remarkable about Spaces, Nils Frahm’s last LP, was that it sounded like a studio album, right up to the moment that the audience broke into rapturous applause. It remains a strangely disconcerting experience to feel as though the solitude that an ambient or modern classical piece invariably accompanies has been a shared experience after all.

With Solo, his inaugural Piano Day gift to the world, the effect is almost uncomfortably intimate in contrast. Opening track ‘Ode’ sets the tone in what can only be described as an unfulfilled dialogue. Piano chords ring out, bright and clean, and then slowly fade, until the only sounds left are the shuffle of keys being released and Frahm’s breath in the microphone, awaiting a response that never arrives. ‘Merry’ also provides an early highlight, as the song’s breezy, lullaby beginnings render the minor key development later on all the more piercing.

The record’s gentle pace is shattered by ‘Wall’, a display of Frahm’s forte and a reminder that the specially designed Klevins 370 piano we hear throughout carries a formidable lower register. It is also the point at which you suspect he begins to lean more firmly on the improvisational style he is known for, as the compositions begin to loosen and extend. ‘Immerse!’ seems relatively devoid of ideas, and meanders along that way for nearly 11 minutes, though album closer ‘Four Hands’, all fluttering arpeggios and elegant chord changes, reminds us what considerable talent Frahm still has to offer.

Nils Frahm plays at Albert Hall on 24 May.