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Nils Frahm ‘Late Night Tales’ – Album Review

Late Night Tales (2015)

Having already released a surprise free album to celebrate the inaugural Piano Day and provided the soundtrack to one-take film Victoria this year, German classical-electronic composer Nils Frahm continues his prolific streak by becoming the latest contributor to the long-running Late Night Tales.

Now in its 14th year, the series which invites artists to showcase their own personal pet sounds isn’t a stranger to Frahm’s music, with both Mercury Prize nominee Jon Hopkins and indie-disco trio Friendly Fires selecting compositions from the 32-year-old for their respective compilations.

However, the third Late Night Tales instalment of 2015 is the first time that Nils Frahm has served as curator. And although the obligatory cover, a ‘rendition’ of John Cage’s famously silent piece, “4:33,” initially suggests that the multi-instrumentalist was content to do the bare minimum, the rest of the 24-track collection proves he took the role very seriously.

Indeed, despite the sheer apparent randomness of the selections – which range from the muted tribal rhythms of the Baka Forest People of Southern Cameroon to the squalling saxophone of Arcade Fire’s Colin Stetson – the album arguably flows better than any of its predecessors, while Frahm’s decision to subtly tamper with the source material ensures that his presence is felt throughout.

Of course, anyone familiar with Frahm’s work won’t be surprised to see the likes of IDM stalwarts Boards of Canada, Bibio and Four Tet rubbing shoulders with jazz legend Miles Davis, bandleader Victor Silvester and pianist Vladimir Horowitz.

But there are still several curveballs, too, whether it’s Nina Simone’s stunning live performance of Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” or singing cowboy Gene Autry’s “You’re The Only Star,” while relatively obscure names such as Finnish duo The Gentleman Losers, one-time labelmates Dictaphone and turn-of-the-century dub techno label Rhythm and Sound all receive some well-deserved exposure.

Perfectly drawn to a close with a spoken word piece from Hollywood actor Cillian Murphy, Nils Frahm’s musical treasure trove might just be one of the finest in Late Night Tales history.

4 / 5 stars     

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About the Author

on MUSIC IS MY OXYGEN WEEKLY.

Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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