The man like Frahm makes Edinburgh emotional

Wow, extraordinary.

This was everything I love about the live music experience.

Music to escape into.
Music that moves you, physically and emotionally.
Music that challenges you.
Music that makes you reconsider what an artist can do and what a concert is.
Music that that lives with you for hours and days and weeks afterwards.

Above all, it was an experience. It felt like more than just another ‘gig’. The music, the artist, the venue, the crowd completely absorbed, the pin-drop atmosphere, it was just special.

For me, this is what music’s all about. And this is what Edinburgh Music Lovers is about, whether that’s our events* or the content we share. Amazing music experiences and artists.

And beyond that, Edinburgh. Nights like this. A Tuesday and a couple of thousand open-minded music lovers showing the appetite and passion for eclectic and experimental music in Edinburgh.

Nils Frahm, Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 19 Feb, 2019

Nils Frahm, Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 19 Feb, 2019

Is genius too strong a word for Nils Frahm?

Up there on stage, surrounded by an array of vintage keyboards, synths, drum machines, mixing desks and a piano, he does remarkable things. One man, multiple machines; it’s mind-boggling how he creates such beautiful noise.

Describing what he does and the music he makes is hard. Composer, musician, experimental pianist, multi-instrumentalist… contemporary classical, electronic classical, post-classical, neo-classical, ambient-electronica…

I’m going for an entirely new and completely made-up definition - ‘Melan-tronica’. There’s a deep sense of melancholic sadness mingling in with the haunting beauty of a lot of Frahm’s electronic excursions.

A not very good photo of a very good Nils Frahm

A not very good photo of a very good Nils Frahm

His set and sounds make my mind drift across musical memories and reference points.

One minute I’m reminded of arthouse French film soundtracks, then I’m in Ibiza watching the sun go down at Café Del Mar.  

His virtuoso piano playing harks back to Brahms and the classical training Frahm had as a child. Things get a bit orchestral, operatic even. It’s all perfect for the Usher Hall, one of the best concert halls in Europe. 

As newer electronic sounds and equipment come into the mix, things fast-forward back to Frahm’s ‘neo-classical’ contemporaries such as Olafur Arnalds and Max Richter.

As the drum machines kick in, thoughts turn from classical to urban soundscapes; to Kraftwerk, then dub and hints of Frahm’s fellow Berliners, Basic Channel and the minimalist techno now defined by Berghain.

Then things evolve into the sophisticated and skewed take on electronic music and techno from the likes Aphex Twin, Atoms for Peace, Max Cooper and Jon Hopkins.

The intensity and depth of his soundscapes are unreal.

The end of the set is incredible. As it draws to close, he starts tinkering around inside the guts of his grand piano with a pair of toilet brushes**.

As his arm movements get more intense, I’m bizarrely reminded of the intensely emotional moment of watching on from afar as a surgeon rummaged around in my wife’s tummy during her caesarean section.

Next, Frahm is playing two pianos simultaneously, right hand and left hand conjuring up all kinds of magic. Finally, he returns to the grand piano and his hands bash and blur during an epic and euphoric 10-minute display of virtuoso piano playing***.

It’s beautiful and unreal.

‘Wow’ says my wife as the standing ovation subsides.   


* To be totally honest, Nils Frahm is one of the reasons I set up Edinburgh Music Lovers. I first became aware of his music in 2016 while watching ‘Victoria’, the amazing German film shot in one take, which Frahm soundtracked. In June 2017, as the idea for EML was brewing, I started making enquiries about booking him to play in Edinburgh. My vision for EML s to book eclectic and experimental artists and for me he represents the epicentre of that idea. Sadly and understandably, I didn’t get to book him. But he did say ‘Invite me back!’ during the show, so who knows, next time could be different….
** I found out later that this track is in fact called ‘Toilet Brushes’. Despite being a huge fan of Nils Frahm, I can’t name a single track. I have the same problem with Mogwai.
*** I think the last track was ‘More’, I could be wrong.