Spaces (CD)
Exceptional tenth release from Berliner composer Nils Frahm. Combining the tactility of Reichian percussive minimalism with the dreamy early-digital arpeggiated chord structures of someone like Steve Roach, Spaces asserts its uniqueness even more by the sheer fact of its being a compilation of live recordings (check out footage of the guy on YouTube for a truly jaw-dropping experience). Lest the one-man-band circus novelty take hold, let's move on. Nils Frahm is primarily a pianist and composer, and the prominence of IRL acoustic piano butting up against a timeline of increasing electronic capability situates him in line with the doors opened by multi-tiered organs or having extra fingers like the pianist in GATTACA. This is stunningly beautiful and complex-but-immersive music, made even the more shocking when Frahm takes a break from his swirling string-theory symphonies to give us a lilting, emotional, three minute composition for solo piano, a la someone like Keith Jarrett at his coolest and most miserable. Unreal! Buy this! Read more
Abandoned City (CD)
Haunting piano music from German musician Volker Bertelmann finds us in the echoing concrete pits of Philip Glass's cinematic scores (easy to imagine this record replacing Glass's music for Candyman) but with the muted driving pace of minimal techno, placing this record alongside Dawn of Midi's Dysnomia or a more subdued version of Nils Frahm's Spaces. Like DoM, Bertelmann plays a prepared piano in the Cage-ian tradition, stretching the limits of the ways a piano can sound. Like Frahm, he augments this altered-acoustic structure with subtle electronic effects. Compositionally, the record is caught somewhere between the two, with none of the arpeggiated soaring of Frahm but quite a bit more abstract that DoM's poly-lock-precision. Returning to Glass, this is tense, melancholy mood music, fitting of the anonymous abandoned city from which the album derives its name. Keep in mind that this is Hauschka's eleventh album. He's been doing this for a while and knows what he's doing. I imagine that with this increased U.S. exposure, we may hear Bertelmann's music populating film scores some time soon. Read more