Every now and again you come across an album that stops you dead in your tracks and demands that you sit and listen to it, for me one of the finest examples of this is German pianist Nils Frahm’s Felt.
Recorded in his Berlin flat with bolts of felt laid across the piano wires to muffle the noise so as not to disturb his neighbours, Felt is, for me, an incredibly intimate and beautiful album. Microphones were placed inside the body of the piano for the recording process making the actual mechanics of the instrument an integral part of the music. The notes played seem to hover in the background, in places ethereal and disconnected from the percussive noises of the hammers hitting the wires. In other places the sound of Frahm breathing or moving on his seat hover on the edge of hearing, giving the sense of the artist being alive inside the recording and blending seamlessly with the music and instrument as one organic whole.
There are many highlights among the 9 tracks but one of my personal favourites is track 2, Less. As the names suggests Less is a sparse track but this space is in no way wasted time, each note is placed with care and delicacy by Frahm, taking almost 30 seconds for the second note to be played while the first drifts soulfully away. There is one single high note at 4:20s into the track that sounds as though the piano is struggling to reach its upper registers, straining to convey the emotions of the track.
Felt, for me, is a rewarding work of artistic imagination and achievement that I never fail to find new aspects in on every listen.