Kicking off a beautifully sunny August bank holiday weekend, German composer Nils Frahm returned to London to perform at The Hydra’s bank holiday series at Printworks. We went to see the magician at work on August 23rd.
Over the past few years, South East London’s Printworks has established itself as one of the premier electronic venues in the capital. On top of that, promoters The Hydra are always a trustworthy bet to put on excellent weekenders such as this August bank holiday weekend, which included the likes of Detroit house legend Jeff Mills and fellow German maestro Helena Hauff. We already have our eyes on The Hydra’s October weekender curated by Jon Hopkins, but that is for another time, as tonight we are fully immersed in Frahm’s universe.
Frahm is coming off last year’s awe-inspiring All Melody, a stand-out record of 2018, and subsequent summer tour which enamoured fans all over. Frahm has just released the All Armed EP ahead of tonight’s performance. However, he sticks strictly to material from last year’s full-length and 2013’s Spaces. The difference is that Frahm is afforded the extra time a festival slot does not usually allow, giving his set space to breathe.
For instance, after his expected upbeat opening duo ‘The Whole Universe Wants to Be Touched’ and ‘Sunson’, Frahm moves on to his more intimate piano work, such as the beautiful ‘My Friend the Forest’ and ‘Familiar’. These songs would normally be reserved for a show at a space such as the Barbican or Southbank Centre, but Frahm is not afraid to perform these delicate tracks at the traditionally techno-heavy industrial space. The only blowback from this choice is that large sways of the audience who are expecting an opportunity to dance are a little alienated by these pieces and while largely respectful do seem visibly awkward in places.
This is of course not Frahm’s fault or problem, his mesmerising set is a joy to behold for those willing to see it. There is, however, a noticeable rush of release when he moves away from his piano and back to his sequencers and synths for the stunning double hitter of ‘All Melody’ and ‘#2’. Towards the closing moments of Frahm’s set, he looks back to his Spaces LP to deliver a wondrous rendition of ‘Hammers’ and ‘Says’, which he has made a staple of his sets. Frahm’s charm and energy dedicated to his performance alongside his desire to connect to the crowd is a rare, engaging quality of his that sometimes goes absent in electronic music, as many DJs prefer to let their music do the talking. Frahm seems genuinely thrilled to be performing at Printworks tonight; he exclaims it “his new favourite venue, even above the Berghain!” in what proves to be a special set from an artist in the prime of his creative work.
Photo credits: Jake Davis @HungryVisuals