F.S. Blumm & Nils Frahm, Music For Lovers Music Versus Time, 2010

music for loves frontSonic Pieces label.

Ambient style: instrumental, experimental, neo-classical, contemporary, folk. This record is very experimental, and extremely difficult to describe. Besides the mainstays of piano and guitar as per Frahm and Blumm, prominently featured on a number of tracks are trumpets, clarinets, cellos, vibraphones, and marimbas. Yet it works, for having listened to it several times, it becomes familiar and melodic, yet maintains an erratic, mildly comical quality throughout. In fact, like the Dictaphone album on Sonic Pieces, it’s a bit of stretch to call this music ‘ambient’. It’s only ambient insofar as it relies on the aesthetics of distraction. Songs/pieces are completely unpredictable.

music for lovers labelKugler… quiet opening, fret squeak, guitar, pointillist bricolage, ping pong balls, triangle tinkle, or glasses. These several disparate elements successfully combine into a rhythm and loose melody held together by the juxtaposition of percussive noises against guitar strums and bass notes. It’s a pensive thoughtful piece, yet with a comical element. After all, some of these noises sound like cartoonery. Indescribable and busy, slithery zithery, scrape, grate, piano tinkling tones, groaning clarinet, feedback, like a child tinkering, discovering the sounds he or she can make with all the wonderful equipment in the kitchen. But mainly, Frahm on piano and Blumm on guitar is where the true beauty lies in these pieces.

Rone Re… piano is more prominent, and guitar, both blending loudly, a certain arbitrary nature in the joint improvisation. A low bass clarinet drone zones over the music, and brings a new low melody. The extraneous noises are still present, but muted, or recorded and played backwards. High pitched squeaks, very brief and pointillist, alarm clock warble. This music is fitful and uneven, jolted, woken, untameable.

Writing Letters To Myself… the previous track seems to join up with this one, where trumpet and bass clarinet play in parallel. Other percussive elements pop and zap in and out, creating discontinuity, backwards tones, and all very slow. There is always melody here, insofar as there must be a key in which the actual instruments are being played. i.e. it’s not discordant. But they suggest the product of restless minds. Prettiness prevails.

Heber… piano chords, organic electronic purring effects, squeaks and blurps, less melody this time, more of a droning repetitive quality. Mostly just acoustic guitar and piano, a few reverse tones, a thicker sound, piano bonking away blurrily behind crisp frontal guitar. The piano dominates, but it could go anywhere at any moment.

music for lovers labelLenz… guitar figures, strange shapes, strums, individual notes, then piano trills, like noisy birdsong in a forest, tap tap tapping, a descending strain, guitar is crystal clear and up front in the mix, little electronic twirrups interrupt, it’s a busy piece, yet there is still space, like shards of light through trees, but it’s a singular mood cast, unchanging, just waiting for something, like someone finding something to do while they wait alone for someone else to come along.

 

Sugar Coated Fennel Seeds…  vibraphone twinkles, some weird dragging noise, cello groans and scrapes, like the sound of fennel seeds being dropped and scattered, maybe some kind of birdlike creature with a big toucan-like beak investigates. Piano plonks loudly, cello drones in, extraneous clatter of little shapes in bowls rolling around, though it’s hard to say what’s making these sounds. This is very much on the mental end of experimental, and is not terribly musical in the sense of being memorable in any way, but purely improvised and eccentric and arbitrary and pretty, though a touch twee too.

Licht-Teil… lonesome steel string guitar notes, left to ring and echo in the silence, a couple of beeps interrupt, lots of space between notes, bass clarinet again, blowing woody notes through the plinkety plonk plonk of strings, very experimental, digital glass detritus, CD skips, bits of audio dregs, the starts and ends of notes, just bits and pieces, suggesting disintegration, the end of music,

Onward Onward… the guitar is back, backed by trumpet, and it’s very pretty, yet as pensive as ever, hesitant, spacious, solo vibraphone plays a simple repeating melody then silence, fuzz, some simple guitar notes, all improvised, quiet again, then a melody on very high piano notes, very star-twinkly, city lights, candles flickering out, wind chimes, and end.

Wanda Marimba… a percussive woodblock bell-like regular rhythm with two note marimba splashes, a woody and hollow melody, and what sounds like banjo, keeping the melodic rhythm steady, almost like an actual normal song structure, almost reminds me of something familiar and folky. Fades out.

music for lovers backSummary: These are the poorest ‘descriptions’ of songs I’ve ever written. All I could really do was make notes on what I heard, and how the songs changed. Generally, it doesn’t give me any sense of narrative, or it might, if I’d been listening for a long time. I’ve used words like ‘spacious’ and ‘pointillist’ to try to hint at how much space there is in the music, and how the sounds enter and leave quickly, often mixing together, or playing off one another. To my ear and imagination it never really sounds like anything more than two or three folk musicians having fun with their instruments and anything else within reach that has an acoustic quality. It might well be constructed on a computer software program in terms of the way the pieces are structured. The musicality factor is fairly high though, and I’ve found that with subsequent listens, the tunes start to become more familiar. I think mostly of a rainforest populated by all manner of birds when I listen to this.

See also Part II of this record, Music For Wobbling Music Versus Gravity, which was released in 2013, as well as Blumm & Frahm’s third collaboration Tag Eins Tag Zwei from 2016.

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About Alan Bumstead Vinyl Reviews

Alan Bumstead is a music fanatic who humbly adds confusion to the world with a string of album reviews written during real-time-listening in a stream-of-consciousness style, then edited for spelling, punctuation, flow and grammar. Apart from an additional introductory paragraph, the writing is improvised in time with the music. There is no re-writing. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- In his book Moving To Higher Ground Wynton Marsalis says, "Because jazz musicians improvise under the pressure of time, what's inside comes out pure. It's like being pressed to answer a question before you have a chance to get your lie straight. The first thought is usually the truth." I like to think that's what Alan Bumstead's all about.
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