On September 23, Nils Frahm returns with an expansive new album, ‘Music For Animals’, his first fresh studio material since 2018’s ‘All Melody’ and 2019’s associated ‘All Encores’, and his first full length album of brand-new music for LEITER. Containing ten tracks and clocking in at over three hours long, it’s an ambitious and compelling set different to anything Frahm’s released to date – in fact, it finds the Piano Day founder declining to use a piano – but at the same time retains many of the qualities that have set the influential musician’s work apart over much of the last two decades.
Unfolding at an unhurried, meditative pace in a celebration of tone, timbre and texture – and thus of sound itself – ‘Music For Animals’ offers an unusually immersive experience. Nonetheless, it also functions as what Erik Satie once called ‘Furniture Music,’ inviting a listener to wander in and out at their leisure. “My constant inspiration,” Frahm explains, “was something as mesmerising as watching a great waterfall or the leaves on a tree in a storm. It’s good we have symphonies and music where there’s a development, but a waterfall doesn’t need an Act 1, 2, 3, then an outcome, and nor do the leaves on a tree in a storm. Some people like watching the leaves rustle and the branches move. This record is for them”.
Inevitably, ‘Music For Animals’ is a product – and indeed a document – of the pandemic and of long, lonely hours spent in Frahm’s East Berlin studio. “Nothing was happening,” he recalls, “and I felt like this was a special time which needed a special kind of music.” Such solitude, though, wasn’t the only unfamiliar aspect to the album’s making. It’s also the first record on which he worked, albeit idiosyncratically, with his wife. “Like everyone, Nina had to spend much more time on her own at home,” he recalls. “One day she brought a picnic over to the studio, and we opened a bottle of wine, then I showed her my new instrument, a glass harmonica. When she tried playing it, it sounded amazing, and I recorded that first interaction. Afterwards she came a couple of times a week, and each time I’d prepare a little sequence to jam on. She’s not musically trained, but she was playing with so much purpose and care. That’s very helpful, just playing the few notes you really feel and otherwise not playing anything.”
This reminder of Mark Hollis’ famous instruction – “Before you play two notes, learn how to play one note… and don’t play one note unless you’ve got a reason to play it” – subtly underlines ‘Music For Animals’ quiet but inconspicuous affinity with Talk Talk’s later, spacious albums. “A lot of music, in my humble opinion, is over-decorated like a Christmas tree,” Frahm continues. “I just want to have the tree. I don’t know why there’s more decoration on the tree each year, nor why a song has to be a little more compact, denser and more digested. This, to me, feels more and more unnatural. I’d prefer to give an idea of what could be there but isn’t there so that the listener starts creating the composition in their mind. For me that’s a core element of my music: that you, the listener, find yourself inside the music. On this album there’s an especially big place left where it’s not too tight or squeezed.”
As a title, ‘Music For Animals’ is a tongue-in-cheek nod to the conceptual albums of the 1950s – like Raymond Scott’s ‘Music For Babies’ – as well as to contemporary playlist habits. “I feel a certain frustration with the functional use of music these days, all these playlists with names like Music for Sleeping, Music for Focus, Music for Masturbation,” Frahm laughs. “Music always seems to need to do something useful. That’s a very client-driven logic: the client needs something, the music should deliver that, otherwise ‘You’re Fired!’ With this album, there was no specific audience in mind, and nor was it adapted to any particular purpose. But in fact, it seemed to please the animals I’ve spent a lot of time with these last months, so, you know: if you can’t beat them, join them…!”
At three hours long, ‘Music For Animals’ might seem initially intimidating, but the truth is that this substantial collection encourages listeners to bask in its tranquility at their chosen depth, demanding only as much attention as they wish to contribute. As Frahm himself happily points out, “It all comes back to that waterfall. If you want to watch it, watch it. If you don’t, then you don’t have to. It will always be the same, yet never quite the same.” Indeed, that’s ‘Music For Animals’ greatest strength. Instantly recognisable, it’s still like nothing else.
Recorded between 2020 and 2022 at LEITER STUDIO in Berlin’s Funkhaus complex, ‘Music For Animals’ will be released on September 23 as a 3CD and 4LP set, as well as on all streaming platforms. You can listen to the lead single ‘Right Right Right’ and pre-order the album now.
More information and pre-ordering here.