It seems pretty clear that the title of Nils Frahm's newest album, Felt, has a double meaning. Not only does it refer to the material Frahm has used for damping his piano, it also hints at what he wants this record to do. Either that or it's a misplaced reference to the Watergate scandal informant. Title aside, what's the record actually like?

 

Felt comes from an altogether different place to Frahm's previous album The Bells, which was recorded in a large church. There is none of the tremendous reverb that gave some of that record's tracks – like the thunderous 'Down down' – a menacing edge. Instead, born of a wish not to disturb the neighbours, Felt is a work of hushed strings and gentle fingertips, complimented by a recording technique that places the microphone deep within the piano. This latter factor adds a host of extra noises to the music, almost turning it into a prepared-piano album like that of artists such as Haushcka. Throughout the album, Frahm's delicate playing is accentuated by the clicks of the keys and the creak of floorboards. It's a very similar sound to that of Goldmund on Famous Places, except the noises are arguably more prominent on Felt. In both cases, however, the result is an intimate album which gives up more of its secrets on each listen.

 

Though the record almost becomes one entity – the end of each piece seamlessly merging with the beginning of the next – there are definitely a few stand out tracks. Album opener 'Keep' and its opposite 'More' are the most energetic of the nine and employ similar structures. From a simple start of twinkling keys they move through repetitive melodies reminiscent of Steve Reich or something on Glassworks and out into a lush arrangement. With 'Keep', arpeggios of xylophones complete the piece whilst dreamy electronics fulfil their role on 'More'. Best of all though is 'Familiar', a melancholic and highly evocative track where the gleeful tones of a glockenspiel run beside the mournful piano and rich background noise. It's the closest the album comes to being truly beautiful for me, which in turn is its biggest shortcoming

 

You see, for all its intricacies and delicacies, Felt somehow fails to really move me, to give me that chest-fluttering, joyous sinking feeling I associate with beauty and which will have me addicted to a piece of music for months. Some parts of the album, particularly 'Old Thought', seemed a bit cold, sounding almost hopelessly isolated rather than revelling in that isolation. This is, of course, a highly subjective criticism and one for which it's hard to pinpoint a cause. I expect many readers will be screaming “Stone-hearted fool!” at their computer screams and with an artist of such obvious talent as Frahm I don't blame them. Feelings, eh? Confusing bastards.