This is an album of beautifully composed, arranged and recorded chamber music mixing elements of electronic music with traditional orchestral instruments and arrangements but it's also a love letter to a studio. That studio is the Saal 3 'chamber music' complex at Funkhaus in East Berlin. The studio was built in 1953 through 1956 and in 2014 Mr. Frahm became the 'host' of Saal 3 and spent a year renovating and restoring the studio with an eye to both historic preservation while taking advantage of current technology. Vintage typewriters and light fixtures co-exist in harmony with modular synthesizers. Photos of the studio depict high ceilings and wood paneling that not surprisingly, look similar to the historic Hansa studios (Tape Op #95) also in Berlin. In what must have been a fit of obsession, Frahm commissioned a custom made mixing console built by Matthias Hahn and Benjamin Maus. Dubbed KONSUL 1 and based on Danner broadcasting modules, the console was finished in time to mix All Melody. Mr. Frahm also mentions how important the sound of Funkhaus' three echo chambers are to the album and in another fit of obsession, he made several trips to Mallorca in order to use a fourth improvised echo chamber he and a friend built in a dry well. How do I know all this? Well the two LP vinyl version of All Melody is a beautifully crafted package to present the music it contains. The vinyl sounds amazing and was mastered by Zino Mikorey and cut to disc by Barry 'Bazza' Grint. The included digital download codes gets you not only MP3s and WAV files and a sampler of other artists on Erased Tapes, the label that released All Melody and most of Frahm's other recordings. Also included is a beautifully printed and designed 12 page book (on 12 by 12 pages!) with extensive liner notes and photographs of Saal 3. I was lucky enough to be sent this LP for review, but I always try to buy physical music from artists that I care about and packages like this make it easy to feel good about dropping $20-30 on an album. Musically this album explores repeated melodic themes in arrangements that are rich but not cluttered and while there's a lot going on, the overall aesthetic feels like a nod to minimalism to me. Mr. Frahm is a composer and keyboard player and most of his previous albums are him and his collection of pianos, harmoniums, organ, mellotron, synthesizers and modular synths, but for All Melody, he worked with several other musicians. Inspired by his new studio, he now had a space to host friends and listen to them play, noting "the more I listened, the less I would play." The end result is a collection of songs arranged for keyboards and electronics with a 12 piece choir, cello, viola, trumpet, bass marimba, guitar, and percussion.
Frahm is touring in 2018 in support of All Melody, so if he's near you could be lucky enough to hear this music performed live.