AMN Reviews: F. S. Blumm & Nils Frahm – Music for Wobbling Music versus Gravity (Sonic Pieces) / Nils Frahm – Screws (Erased Tapes)

Within the space of the first two minutes, the talented duo of multi-active F.S. Blumm and pianist Nils Frahm manage to suggest a Baroque rondeau, cowboy campfire and contemporary composition, just with the slightest flick of the wrist, each just for a moment. In the next, Frahm embarks on a lovely melody that Blumm mosquito-bites with noise. This oddly named collaboration is intended to accompany the duo´s 2010 collaboration Music for Lovers Music versus Time. Overdubbed and edited improvisations that not only have not been “cleaned up” but are further distressed by Blumm´s “concrete bricolage”, ranging from crumpling paper to crumpled digital. Music for Wobbling Music versus Gravity is a playhouse, and much of it really works, but too much broken toy racket risks sounding as outlandish as Spike Jones and his battery of wacky sound effects. Seeing as the classically-trained Blumm has such a singular touch with a guitar, it is when the two nestle deeply in sync on the spare “Old Friends Inst.,” “Silently Sharing” and “Sip Song,” that both their kinship and musicianship are thrown into high relief.

Speaking of broken things, last year Frahm slipped, fell and busted his thumb so badly that four surgical screws were needed to put it back together again. Drawing inspiration from misfortune, he composed nine short pieces for nine fingers and recorded Screws. Brief, intimate and rudimentary recordings, picking up the very physicality of the piano and ambient hiss like dust motes in the air, its titles are simplilcity itself, taken from the “sol-fa” scale (bookended by “You” and “Me”). As familiar as folk, pop and jazz standards from the very first listen, the sweet, pastoral “Re”, sober meditation of “Fa”, muted optimism of “Sol” and a “Let it Be” gospel rise in “Si” are just a few of its furtive highlights.

While Frahm´s collaboration with Blumm poses a challenge (one certainly worth accepting), Screws should please just about anyone who listens.

Stephen Fruitman