Nils Frahm, a classically-trained pianist turned contemporary electronic artist and producer, is no stranger to the power of several keyboards and tape players. His latest live album, Tripping with Nils Frahm, recorded in December of 2018 at Funkhaus Berlin and released on December 3, 2020, captures the best of his character in a mesmerizing work digestible in just over an hour.
Opening with a drone on a keyboard, “Enters” grows slowly, with layers of other textures on top to create long, simple, but powerful chords. Similarly, the following track, “Sunson” begins with an ambient and acoustic sound, but gradually builds with a rhythmic sawtooth-edged synth fading in and taking over. Frahm draws his audience in closer with every tap of a key or switch.
“Fundamental Values” is a pristine example of how Frahm tastefully blends the concert hall with the nightclub. Beginning with a simple synthesized rhythm, a relaxed and free piano melody enters and floats on top. The track constantly builds in energy and dynamics for nearly fifteen minutes, reaching a climax with the addition of operatic voices on top of everything else.
Halfway through the album, in “My Friend the Forest” and “The Dane”, Frahm contains the energy with calming piano melodies tied back to back. Although slow, this section of the performance remains interesting because of its unpredictability.
“All Melody”— a song that is arguably anything but — and “#2” both feature synthetic bass and arpeggiated grooves with the same soloistic playing on top, as in previous tracks. The transition between the two is nearly flawless as the applause from the end of “All Melody” fades into the synth rhythm at the beginning of “#2.”
The final track, “Ode-Our Own Roof,” is a compilation of two previously released songs, and ends the album like it started, with long drone-y chords, slow and full of anticipation. Unlike the previous songs, this one does not conclude with applause, but with silence, encouraging the listener to put the entire album on repeat and listen through endlessly.
For a live concert album, the production values are nothing short of astonishing. The sound perfectly captures the space and depth of a concert hall and balances the highs and lows from every instrument equally well. Furthermore, noises from the audience are masterfully woven together with the music.
Tripping with Nils Frahm is ideally structured and produced, taking the audience on a journey — or tripping — through various soundscapes that any other artist could only dream of creating.