Nils Frahm packhotTo be honest, I don’t know how Nils Frahm gets the subtlety out of the piano that he does.

That’s not a glib expression of awe; on My Friend The Forest, you can hear in perfect detail the sound of the piano’s hammer mechanisms moving and the keys brushing against one another as Frahm plays, and that usually signifies a very old or sticky piano. And that means, from a technical perspective, it’s hard to communicate the tone you want to get – it comes out either as this way-too-loud honk, or it’s barely there at all. There’s no in-between.

But he does, and it is, and that’s just one reason why new album All Melody is so immersive.

German ambient-electronica (or “modern classical”) artist Frahm has found his tent pitched in the Max Richter, Einaudi and Hauschka camp, and that certainly makes sense, but All Melody is a world all in itself. Aside from its long exhales of harmonium and synth, the album has much in common with the early soundscapes of French band Air; on tracks like A Place and All Melody, the electric piano and slivered samples of organ and violin transform the expected rhythm/melody relationship, while on Human Range, the muted trumpet sounds so much like a respiring, wailing human voice that it’s kind of unsettling (but also super compelling).

Frahm has said of the album: “My pipe organ would turn into a drum machine, while my drum machine would sound like an orchestra of breathy flutes. I would turn my piano into my very voice, and any voice into a ringing string.” While we’re still several weeks away from his self-decreed Piano Day (the 88th day of the year, to match the number of keys on the instrument), the range of magical sounds Frahm conjures from his set-up could easily fill the rest of the year and then some.

All Melody is out January 26 via Erased Tapes/Inertia. Enter our comp to win the album on vinyl, along with a sack of other goodies from Erased Tapes.

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