Encores 2 by Nils Frahm, and the Joy of Live Music

It’s difficult to unpack my feelings about Nils Frahm as an artist. I remember, a few years back, hearing rave reviews about one of his albums. I can’t recall which album it was. I listened to it, and it reminded me of the type of “scholarly” music that is being produced at every college music department with an electronic music program in the country. It didn’t strike me as anything special.

Then I listened to The Noise Pop Podcast, or maybe it was Switched on Pop, and one of the hosts was overwhelmed by Frahm’s 2018 album All Melody. So I listened to that, and I felt about the same.

Maybe it was a sign that I was cynical, jaded, or just plain old. Or maybe Frahm and I went through similar music educations. Maybe he was the most successful version of all the dudes making quiet, semi-ambient electronic music at all the schools I attended. Although, glancing through his wikipedia, I don’t see any references to universities. So maybe that isn’t the case either.

But as of last year, my general feeling toward Frahm was a qualified “meh.”

Still, when I saw he was playing at a club that was walking distance from my house, I had to buy tickets. I invited my friend Brian along, and we caught him at The Ritz in San Jose.

It was at that concert that my feelings toward Frahm changed.

The Ritz is a fantastically intimate venue. It’s compact enough to reach out and touch the performer from the front of the audience. It’s small enough to only hold maybe two hundred people standing.

Frahm had an absolutely massive setup. He had several antique organs, numerous synthesizers, and enormous old fashioned amps the size of small cars.

But he had no band and there was no opening act. He came out alone. He performed alone, and the show was about him and his music. It was pure, and almost sacred in its tone at first. But as it went on he got more and more loose.

Frahm has a charming on-stage personality. Between each track he talked about his music and his writing process. He opened up his soul a little bit, and opened up about his music a lot. He got more talkative as the show progressed, until by the end he was talking about chord progressions and audience expectations. For people with a little bit of musical training, which I suspect was most of the audience, it was a magical night where we jointly worshipped at the altar of music.

On January 25th, 2019, Frahm released a new EP titled Encores 2. Does it feel like his show? Would his magical show change the way I perceived his music?

No. The album is more slow, quiet sonic meditations that owe a great debt to Brian Eno. It’s still an enjoyable album to listen to while at work, or on the train, or perhaps while making dinner.

But if you get the chance, you should definitely catch him live.

In which I complain about the lcd soundsystem show…

This feels like a blog post from 2004. I want to complain about some super popular thing as if anyone cares about my opinion. Whatever. I’m going to write it anyway.

I went to see LCD Soundsystem at The Bill Graham last night. The auditorium was packed with a concert audience that actually made me feel young for once. The show was generally excellent, at least in the music sense. It was a great performance. Maybe you could complain that some of the performances were virtually identical to London Sessions. Or maybe you could complain that they only played five tracks off the new album. But that’s picking nits. They ended with All My Friends, so I really can’t complain too much about the music.

LCD Soundsystem at The Bill Graham

And here’s the part where I get up on my soapbox about some nonsense.

1. POINT THE FUCKING LIGHTS AT THE BAND

Point the fucking lights at the band. No. NO!. Stop your shit. Nobody cares about your art, we just want to see the fucking band. Seriously.

The band was back-lit for 2/3rds of the show. Bright spots were pouring over James Murphy’s shoulders into the audience’s eyes. He looked fabulous in silhouette. At least I think he looked fabulous. It was tough to see him at all. Since the lights were pointed at the fucking audience.

2. YOUR T-SHIRT IDEAS ARE NOT FUNNY

I can’t believe I bought this shirt.

Terrible LCD Soundsystem Shirt

All you had to do was show the picture of James Murphy, and underneath it, write “LCD Soundsystem”. Instead you gave us this monstrosity.

“So Evan, why didn’t you buy the other shirt?”

I did buy it, and it’s a fucking tie-dye.

Terrible Tie Dye LCD Soundsystem T-Shirt

Seriously? SERIOUSLY?!?!? Has anyone who cares about clothing ever actually worn a tie-dyed t-shirt?

Anyway, I know those are pretty minor points. But I was really excited to finally see one of my favorite bands, and these two little things really grated on me.

PS. Yes, there were even more tragic shirt options. In plain white.