F.S. Blumm & Nils Frahm, Music For Wobbling Music Versus Gravity, 2013

music for lovers frontSonic Pieces label.

Ambient style: instrumental, experimental, contemporary neo-classical folk. In additional to all the other instruments, on this recording we hear crumpled paper, rolling metal balls on ply-wood, a ping-pong ball in a wok, and a turning tin-toy carousel. Here we have an experimental embodiment of instrumental conversation, cut up and reassembled Frankenstein-like, so that we end up with something humanoid mechanical (piano/guitar) attempting, but failing, to communicate anything linguistically sensible.

music for wobbling labelGr 1 B… begins with a simple quiet piano melody then Blumm joins on guitar and the two musicians work around and through each other in a counterpunchingly melodic way. Halfway through, the extraneous noises appear, rapid backwards gull tones. This is far more ‘musical’ than any of the tracks on the first collaboration from 2010. I’d say after a few more spins it might even be hummable.

Perff… faintly blurred piano playing a memorable motif. Guitar starts up playing a melody, piano provides accompaniment, very song like, until some weird pitchy grinding noise gets stuck in a groove. Piano plays a jaunty melody for a bit, then things start to unwind briefly, as if the two instruments break down, but they pull it back together. A brief pause then fade out. A nice track.

Pending 1… guitar test, trying to pick up the start of a song, piano bumps him along as if to say “this way” and they nearly get going, but some clattery stone tones break it up. Rolling piano melody gets underway, guitar matches the pace, they play in parallel, but again, that clattery sound effect interrupts the melody. Cracking glass. Try again, faster this time, piano-water flowing over stones, piano/guitar, bubbling, then slow to halt.

Pending 2… try again? Guitar finds a simple groove to softly tongue around in, clink clink of glasses in background, guitar blipper-blip, grinds to a halt. Then picks up a new melody, thoughtful, looking around, background noise, piano joins and a stronger melody unfolds, gets a real groove on, albeit only until electric notes judder and jerk in tiny spasms trying to interrupt the progress again. Finally the song sounds like a very scratched record or CD playing only bits and pieces of the music. It’s like thought, or daydreaming, someone wanting to solve something by thinking around the problem, but they’re unable to come up with a solution, and they keep giving up. Detritus. Fragments. Scraps of sound. Flotsam. Jetsam. Look around, try to find something else to do instead. Like stop playing an instrument and clean up some cracked glass … or some papers.

As If… guitar arpeggios, a piano run, more interweaving again, a conversation? I guess these are mostly ‘conversations’ between Frahm and Blumm but very disruptive ones where nothing is resolved, just light banter really, observations, like language, in fact exactly like conversational language where sentences are never finished, words are dropped in, different phrases. Like, if you’ve ever tried to take down a transcript of two people having a casual convo then you’d hear pretty quickly how disjointed the syntax, words, ideas are, how random it all sounds.

Movements & Meetings… more delicate guitar, fiddly stuff, but arbitrary and abstract, nothing solid, while the other messes about scattering cracked glass behind him, and then throws a few fingers across the piano in equally delicate arrangements. So, unlike the first album Blumm & Frahm did together, there’s much less reliance on extraneous noise-making equipment, replaced instead by finding alternative noises out of one’s instrument, whether by scratching a fingernail up a string or tapping the wood, or just breathing into the microphone. “Movements and meetings” is an apt name for the track—in fact most of these tracks are movements and meetings, albeit ones happening at a fairly rapid pace, like time-lapse photography.

Exercising Levitation… guitar mostly, plunking out delicate shapes, throwing fingers at the fretboard, then piano clomping under it, and a banjo–like tone, like postmodern duelling banjos. What is exercising levitation? I don’t really get the feeling of floating any more or less in this song than any other.

B… warmer guitar, pulsing piano, back to experimenting with the possibilities of one’s instruments and away from melody. Cracks and brushes, harsh twiddles, and fiddly diddly spirals on guitar, going all hyper-pointillist, some computer sound manipulation going on here. Serious sci-fi FX, lots of backwards spinning, then a loud folky twang, and … nothing…scrape, slither, air…

Old Friends Inst. … [hard to tell where one track ends and another begins]. Back to slow arpeggiated melody, slid notes. Like two stoned dudes thinking they’re geniuses, only, well, they sort of are. These guys can play. It’s gentle though, and resigned, and gets more melodic toward the end, quite pretty in fact, warm, melancholy, the end of something, the play out track on a movie, the ending credits, though there’s still one more song to go. High pitched bell tones, mostly guitar. Piano is shy, reticent here.

music for wobbling labelSilently Sharing… rising warptones, bells, music box tones, jingle, played with that mechanical jerky off-timing of a music box, kinda twee, but nice enough.

Sip Song… piano and guitar, deep resonant bass tones, watery rippling piano, heavy bass notes, solid and sure, almost macho, assured, electric guitar melody, clumps of notes, clusters, like a melody running up a staircase of tones, plonky piano melody, triple notes on guitar, slide up the fretboard, piano melody runs to the out groove.

I Karussell… disjointed, wacky, backwards notes, scratchy, zither, flappy, insectoid, creaking, groan, organic, biotic suggestions, very experimental, unorthodox, innovatory, distracted, agitation, mania, indecision, struggle. Many different kinds of sounds on this track, made from what, a turning tin-toy carousel? Tis weird and phreaktastic, bricolage, winding down, broken, piecemeal, yet, crafted as such. Not exactly memorable tune-wise.

Brehm… guitar, feedback tones backwards recorded, warped bell tones, distinct guitar plucking out a tune, interrupted by scrape, metal, difficult, snoring tones, alien skin, slime, while a bell tone melody plays, then guitar comes back beautifully perforating the noise elements, eclecticism as an aesthetic, louder, disintegration again, fallapartagain, creature-weird slithering, vibraphonic daydream, creepy dragging tone, a ball rolling around a box, like rollerball. Takes a while to end.

Juri… pip, low groan, clunk-clink, then guitar and piano, cheese grater triangle, some kind of tone bender tuning fork being flicked and held against wood.

Ten… loud guitar melody repeating, woody and deep, and piano joins, playing behind as guitar disappears, just residual string-scrape, and this goes melodying on for a bit, while other odd noises explode silently through the piano blur, and squawks and squirks of clipped string-stop split through, like something alien and biotechnological interrupting something very human. The piano plays on, then something goes awry and ominous halfway through, the piano melody reduces to a skeletal version of itself, and a ghost enters the room, drifting through the piano player, calms him, leads him back to some old forgotten exercise in solo counterpoint and contrastive melody, slowed to dreaming and total distraction.

music for lovers frontSummary: Quite similar to the Blumm / Frahm collaboration of 2010, except that this was a bit more focused on piano and guitar, and was distinctly more melodic and musical. Both albums concentrate on the fractured conversational interplay between each musician, but this one felt like they were more familiar with each other, more easily able to slip into a groove, and less awkward. The experimental noises were still all over the album, but less intrusive, generally, except perhaps towards the end of side two when things got quite wayward. Definitely down the more experimental end of neo-classical/instrumental ambient music.

See also Part I of this record, Music For Lovers Music Versus Time, which was released in 2010. The vinyl versions of these two albums are packaged together in one sleeve, whereas the original albums were released as separate CDs. In 2016 Blumm & Frahm’s would collaborate for the third time on Tag Eins Tag Zwei. 

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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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