Music

Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm: Collaborative Works

A lovely view into the shared world of two mad musical geniuses, Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm.

Collaborative Works
Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm

Erased Tapes

30 October 2015 (US / UK)

Other

Ólafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm have been in impossibly good form over the last few years. Record after record of polished, shimmering music has been produced by these two, without any downtime in between. Just this year Frahm released the gentle piano experiments of Solo and Arnalds teamed up with pianist Alice Sara Ott for the brilliant The Chopin Project. The two tinkerers are unconcerned with genre restrictions and have found a strong friendship through their boundary pushing actions. So it makes sense, but also seems unfair that Arnalds and Frahm also had Collaborative Works waiting in the wings.

The release is split into four pieces: Loon, Stare, Life Story Love and Glory, and Trance Frendz. Loon and Stare are glitchy ambient works, with wafting hints of Brian Eno's more atmospheric work trailing in. Life Story Love and Glory holds two faded, gorgeous, piano tracks that seem to have been recorded decades ago, and Trace Frendz is appropriately subtitled as "An evening with Olafur Arnalds and Nils Frahm". Any of these projects can be listened to on their own but, despite the disparity in sounds, the full album is tailor made for one sit down listen, to fully immerse yourself in Arnalds and Frahm's world.

The piano-based songs are reminiscent of Frahm's cooing work from his live album Spaces and have gentle nods to Arnalds' love letter to Chopin. But the strange, glistening ambient works hold more secrets and beauty between the cracks. Album opener "Four" is a loping song, with delayed synths tripping over their own notes as small chimes float to the forefront of the song. It plays as a calm invitation to something much larger, just a taste of what's to come. The following "Three" wouldn't have felt out of place on Eno's space age tribute Apollo: Atmospheres and Soundtracks, "Wide Open" relies on the spaces in between the notes to create a somber mood, and "W" takes its sweet time building from clicking synths into a steady beat.

The songs of Stare feel more contemporary, despite being the oldest recordings here, coming from a session in 2011. "a2" is brilliant ambient mist, with calming chimes turning the song into a lullaby and its partner "a1" is begging for a dance remix of sorts. But it's "b1" that ends up being the core of Collaborative Works. It's par for the course for Arnalds and Frahm to make massive songs (the best song on Frahm's Spaces was over 16 minutes long) but "b1" is something else entirely.

Over 13 minutes, the burbling synths hovering in the background warp and morph in subtle ways. It's a disturbing and disorienting experience, allowing you to unconsciously slip into the song's pattern only for the arpeggiating notes to suddenly slide into new territories. It takes a full five minutes before something from another world breaks into the watery realm with Anne Muller's thundering cello slashing through the sound with booming drums backing her. It's a song that should soundtrack the first visit to Jupiter's frozen moon Europa, which has a vast alien sea beneath miles of ice.

Life Story and Trance Frendz are not as fascinating as Loon or Stare but for sheer elegance and grace, there are few releases that can touch them. Trace Frenz is particularly impressive, as each track here is an improvised duet between Frahm and Arnalds. It sounds a bit ramshackle at times (especially in the later bits where more haunting electronics come into play) but the fluttering work of "21:05" and "20:17" cannot be denied. Further more, when those decaying keyboards come into play, the sounds become sublime. The movie soundtrack quality of "23:17" is undeniable while "23:52" bursts into an ear shattering drone that resolves with church organs and a heavenly light descending from on high.

What Collaborative Works offers is something strange: a shared world created by two mad geniuses. The mammoth piece, as a whole, may seem disjointed and cohesive, but it's bound by a musical friendship and an insatiable appetite to push boundaries in a dozen different genres. Long may Arnalds and Frahm tinker.

8


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Film

Greta Gerwig's Adaptation of Loneliness in Louisa May Alcott's 'Little Women'

Greta Gerwig's film adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's classic novel Little Women strays from the dominating theme of existential loneliness.

Music

The Band's Discontented Third LP, 1970's 'Stage Fright', Represented a World Braving Calamity

Released 50 years ago this month, the Band's Stage Fright remains a marker of cultural unrest not yet remedied.

Music

Natalie Schlabs Starts Living the Lifetime Dream With "That Early Love" (premiere + interview)

Unleashing the power of love with a new single and music video premiere, Natalie Schlabs is hoping to spread the word while letting her striking voice be heard ahead of Don't Look Too Close, the full-length album she will release in October.

Music

Rufus Wainwright Makes a Welcome Return to Pop with 'Unfollow the Rules'

Rufus Wainwright has done Judy Garland, Shakespeare, and opera, so now it's time for Rufus to rediscover Rufus on Unfollow the Rules.

Music

Jazz's Denny Zeitlin and Trio Get Adventurous on 'Live at Mezzrow'

West Coast pianist Denny Zeitlin creates a classic and adventurous live set with his long-standing trio featuring Buster Williams and Matt Wilson on Live at Mezzrow.

Film

The Inescapable Violence in Netflix's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui)

Fernando Frías de la Parra's I'm No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui) is part of a growing body of Latin American social realist films that show how creativity can serve a means of survival in tough circumstances.

Music

Arlo McKinley's Confessional Country/Folk Is Superb on 'Die Midwestern'

Country/folk singer-songwriter Arlo McKinley's debut Die Midwestern marries painful honesty with solid melodies and strong arrangements.

Music

Viserra Combine Guitar Heroics and Female Vocals on 'Siren Star'

If you ever thought 2000s hard rock needed more guitar leads and solos, Viserra have you covered with Siren Star.

Music

Ryan Hamilton & The Harlequin Ghosts Honor Their Favorite Songs With "Oh No" (premiere)

Ryan Hamilton's "Oh No" features guest vocals from Kay Hanley of Letters to Cleo, and appears on Nowhere to Go But Everywhere out 18 September.

Music

Songwriter Shelly Peiken Revisits "Bitch" for '2.0' Album (premiere)

A monster hit for Meredith Brooks in the late 1990s, "Bitch" gets a new lease on life from its co-creator, Shelly Peiken. "It's a bit moodier than the original but it touts the same universal message," she says.

Music

Leila Sunier Delivers Stunning Preface to New EP via "Sober/Without" (premiere)

With influences ranging from Angel Olsen to Joni Mitchell and Perfume Genius, Leila Sunier demonstrates her compositional prowess on the new single, "Sober/Without".

Music

Speed the Plough Members Team with Mayssa Jallad for "Rush Hour" (premiere)

Caught in a pandemic, Speed the Plough's Baumgartners turned to a faraway musical friend for a collaboration on "Rush Hour" that speaks to the strife and circumstance of our time.

Music

Great Peacock Stares Down Mortality With "High Wind" (premiere + interview)

Southern rock's Great Peacock offer up a tune that vocalist Andrew Nelson says encompasses their upcoming LP's themes. "You are going to die one day. You can't stop the negative things life throws at you from happening. But, you can make the most of it."

Music

The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.

Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.