Nils Frahm



by Matt Wolfe EMERITUS
May 18th, 2021 | 7 replies

Release Date: 2012 | Tracklist

I’m sure there are problems with extolling records purely on the basis of their longevity in our listening history. Nonetheless, these albums which we return to periodically, and the way in which we keep returning to them - like slipping into well-worn boots to help us navigate our same tired patch of earth - must speak to some enduring quality which deserves our attention. It’s a quality which can only reveal itself with the passage of time, so it shouldn’t surprise us that so many once-proclaimed ‘brilliant’ records have failed to clear this bar. Very few have.

Nils Frahm’s Screws is, however, one of these records. Released in 2012, it feels safe nine years later to bestow this peculiar kind of endurance-worship upon Frahm’s gentle sunbeam of a record. That said, it’s curious that so simple an album should carry such a lasting impact. Screws contains nine short piano compositions. There’s no other instrumentation and the whole runtime doesn’t even extend to a half hour. There’s nothing particularly original or technically impressive to be found here. And yet, what I find in Screws I cannot find anywhere else.

In considering what I find so compelling about this record that I’ve turned to it time and time again, especially in light of its modest reception on this site, I’m inclined to believe it has more to do with me than the music. Or, rather, it has to do with that strange alchemy that emerges between ourselves and the music we, for whatever reason, love. For instance, if I consider this record perfection, which I do, then I need to consider that my concept of perfection has always necessitated a just-perceptible seam of sadness. Screws finds this seam and mines it. Without the feather-light melancholia which runs throughout and illumines the piano work on Screws, the album would not have endured; at the same time, if this hint of a lament were any more pronounced, it would have suffered the same fate.

Possibly, then, Screws is still with me because it strikes a balance between hope and despair, beauty and cruelty, solitude and loneliness, with a resonance which washes over, and, for a time, washes out, the more morose leanings of my slightly broken brain. Its simplicity makes this possible. Frahm’s piano strokes pad across the surface of consciousness with grace and ease and just enough substance to leave an imprint, and the effect this produces - a kind of quiet salute to the sigh in the smile, the chip in the glass - would be lost under the weight of just one more instrumental addition.

To say any more than this would be antithetical to the sparse nature of the record, but if you can forgive the indulgence of a closing remark: Screws is the perfect showcase of how to use a single instrument for a single purpose and, in doing so, of how to make its audience feel like it was made for a single listener.

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Comments:Add a Comment 
Staff Reviewer
May 18th 2021


beauty rev
actually never listened to that one, will soon fix that!

May 18th 2021


holy shit minus the flair

Staff Reviewer
May 18th 2021


What a great read! May have to check this album.

Staff Reviewer
May 18th 2021


Lovely write-up, easiest (ghost)pos I've given in a minute

I've only dipped a toe into Frahm's work but I liked what I heard, looks like this one should be next on my docket (:

May 18th 2021


Damn, that was beautiful. Haven't thoroughly explored minimalism, and I can't say I have a full idea of what this album sounds like, but your syntax and your obvious love of this music have won me over.

May 19th 2021


Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

great album.

May 19th 2021


minus the flair sighting

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