If the pandemic gave us anything, it was time to reflect, take stock, and remind ourselves what we hold important. For German musician, composer, and producer Nils Frahm, it provided him with the opportunity to dive deep into his vaults and find some forgotten gems. The result is Old Friends New Friends, a new double album composed of orphaned compositions from various projects circa 2009-2021.
With no central theme in mind, Frahm was free to select his favourites and toss them together, and in doing so has created a great introduction to his work. Despite some inclusions being a decade old while others are a mere few months, the 23 solo piano tracks hold together cohesively. Unsurprisingly the work on offer is achingly beautiful, often dripping with melancholic ambience. With nothing passing the five-minute mark, the whole set drifts by like a dream. Each graceful melody melting into the next, subtle changes in production and piano type rewarding repeat listens.
That’s not to say there aren’t any highlights. Rain Take captures the sounds of drizzle outside as Frahm nimbly matches nature’s great cleanser on the keys. It’s spectral and exceptional stuff. Later we enter lo-fi territory on The Idea Machine, the fuzzy recording conjuring images of a long-forgotten pianist while also bringing to mind Mule Variations era Tom Waits. The prize for most gorgeous moment goes to As A Reminder, a lush and cinematic composition that reminds the listener of a fairytale. Perfect winter listening.
It’s not often that double albums are labeled as accessible or something you’d rush to put on in order to relax quickly, but Frahm’s spring-clean of a compilation is exactly that. Despite the album’s nearly 80 minutes of length, these little sonic postcards are a joy to get lost in and never outstay their welcome. For existing fans, the set stands as a treasure trove of mostly unreleased material, while new inductees will find a strong as ever statement on why Frahm is so beloved in certain circles.
Old Friends New Friends sees the artist settle his legacy thus far and clear the way before he gets stuck into another project. If the past 15 years have proven anything, the next chapter should be noteworthy indeed. If you like your music to transport you, look no further than this.