Erased Tapes Records is a sanctuary to musicians that cross-pollinate classical and electronic music. Among the labels roster are Ólafur Arnalds, who played Millenium Park in July of last year, and Douglas Dare, who opened for Fink at Lincoln Hall this past October. These musicians, and others on the label cater to an introspective crowd- a premium is of quiet intensity. In 2011, Nils Frahm was added to this prestigious list with his release of Felt, and he brings with him a passion for genre-bending that is characteristic of the Erased Tapes’ collective.
Frahm’s North American tour has been received extremely well, with shows either selling out or coming close to it. His performance at Thalia Hall this past Sunday was no different. The Chicago historic landmark was the perfect setting for Frahm’s diverse oeuvre- intimate enough for the delicate “Familiar” and “You,” spacious enough to capture the grandeur of his opening “Says.” The crowd was rapt by Frahm’s intensity, which was interspersed with playful interludes of conversation with the audience. Moments like this captured Frahm’s intent as an artist: to inhabit two worlds, classical and contemporary, bliss and melancholy, ferocity and delicacy. This was all reinforced by the stage space, which juxtaposed Frahm between piano and synth, one hand on each of many songs.
Taught at an early age by Nahum Brodski, which puts Frahm just three degrees of separation from Tchaikovsky, we can see the Russian influence on Frahm’s style. The rigors of his training were especially evident during “Said and Done,” which required the performer to repeat a single note throughout the song’s nearly 10-minute duration. The highlight of the evening came in the middle, with the as-of-now unreleased combination of “All Melody” and “#2,” a piece that fuses elements of Berlin Techno and Frankfurt Trance with percussive rhythms taken straight out of Steven Reich’s sheet music. The piece swells from humble beginnings to a cacophonous rapture, illuminating Frahm’s huge scope of influences in just 13 minutes.
Frahm’s skill at unifying themes and genres is not limited to the keyboard, though. His greatest achievement was bringing together a very divergent audience—from Lincoln Hall to Mandel Hall, the Riv to Ravinia, Chicagoans of all musical alliances came to see Nils Frahm.
The power to unify eras, styles and audiences is a sure sign that Frahm will be someone to listen to, and think about, for decades to come.
For more information on the artist, please visit: http://www.nilsfrahm.com/