I’d never heard of Hotel Neon. I’d read about them in an end of the year album list. One or 2 people said ‘yeah we love that album by so and so but Hotel Neon Context….’ Turns out this is their 3rd album and they hail from my sisters hometown of Philadelphia. #knowledge
Contextis a time-based drone fest. Time based as the tracklist reflects different times of the night. I’ve always thought there track names reflect someone awake during the small hours contemplating life, trying but struggling to fight sleep. That’s probably wrong but it’s nice to dream.
This is an album I almost solely listen to sleep to. Although I’ve heard it end to end a few times, I often drift off 3 or 4 tracks in. I feel like a charlatan writing about this album. There are filtered vocals later in the album but I’ve not heard them that often. Certainly, the first half changes are slight and the smallest additional layer can bring the listener back out of their stupor. Like minimal techno/tech house, a hi-hat can bring the biggest response. That is a craft, a skill that only the most confident of artists have. It is what Contextis built on. Imagine long interrupted drones, only occasionally perpetuated with a string or a field recording repeated inconspicuously in the background but enough to merit interest and to root yourself back in the present time.
Despite the heavy reliance on drones, this is an album that doesn’t get heavy in the dark ambient sense. Not overbearing, never atonal and only occasionally a bit bleak, Despite the apparent simplicity on what’s on offer listen deeper and there are many layers carefully put together to make the whole. Pretty much the way i like it.
Track 2, 1.57am coming in at a respectable 9+ minutes is a particular highlight, A simple piece that incorporates one of those layers in the form of a horn, stretched out, filtered and repeated. Minimalism at its best.
A wonderful body of work the floats beautifully, certainly the first half of Context. If I could just stay awake…….
The first album i bought in 2018 was the much anticipated All Melody by Nils Frahm. Ever since the video snippet was posted on social media back in November i’ve been eagerly awaiting its’ release. It’s a much more varied album than some of the more intimate affairs such as Screws and Solo and it’s better for it. The inclusion of a 4/4 beat, a choir and a rich tapestry of instruments makes for an immersive listen whilst still maintaining a sombre mood throughout.
Nils Frahm is receiving much more airtime and column inches than in years gone by. Maybe it’s because i have become more of a fan of his music that i notice this. Hearing the track Human Range on Giles Petersons 6 Music show with its soft trumpet and haunting chants was both surprising and a joy given its a sound not necessarily associated with a Saturday afternoon.
Starting with the haunting choir opening on The Whole Universe Wants to be Loved leading into the electronica of Sunson and A Place, you could be forgiven for thinking this was a bit of a departure for Frahm. Further into the album the title track and #2 re-introduce the electronica. Again, never in your face or overpowering, just a gentle nod in the direction downbeat dance music. Normal service is resumed on My friend the forest and Forever Changeless where some gentle piano work returns. The type of output that has formed a lot of his output over the years, beautiful yet familiar.
The closing stages of the album surface most of the lush textured ambient backdrops. Although Kaleidoscope raises the apparently tempo, it is housed in a synthesiser that keeps the overall vibe that the album has built up.
All Melodywasn’t immediate but over the course of half a dozen listens it became both an extension his work and still familiar at the same time. Very distinctively, Nils Frahm.
All Melody is an album that will lend itself to a live workout. I will find out soon as i see Nils play Glasgow Royal Concert Hall on March 1st.
Update: I didn’t see him in Glasgow because of the weather. The gig was cancelled. Gutted.