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Nonkeen
The Gamble Julian Marszalek , February 17th, 2016 14:28

The journey from childhood to adulthood is one not without its casualties, and foremost among those is friendship. Of all those bonds made as children, the vast majority are broken if not through choice than certainly through necessity be it the change of schools or location. So how easy is to pick up those pieces after a period of several decades and continue that quest in the form of musical expression?

For Nils Frahm and his childhood friends Frederic Gmeiner and Sebastian Singwald – here trading under the name Nonseen - The Gamble is very much a journey, an experience with a beginning, middle and end that's clearly designed to be consumed in a single sitting rather cherry-picked, dissected and playlisted. Moreover, it's the culmination of one story and the start of another.

Having met as children in the still divided Germany of the late 80s, the trio would trade tapes and homemade recordings between Hamburg and Berlin as they made music for their own amusement. Meeting again as adults, with Frahm now up in the public eye as pianist and composer of some considerable note, the trio went back to those tapes for both inspiration and source material, and the result is the jazz-inflected electronica of The Gamble.

There's a lachrymose air surrounding The Gamble which is evoked, in part, by Frahm's excursions on electric piano. The opening two numbers, 'The Invention Mother' and 'Saddest Continent' are something of a sonic red herring. Ambient pieces of a kind, Frahm's contribution to the latter certainly lives up the song's name but it's with the frantic entry of 'Ceramic People' that something special is beginning to unfold. Set against skittering beats and electronic loops, the album takes a huge shift forward and wrong foots the listener.

Further down the line, the utterly haunting 'The Beautiful Mess' gives an idea of what might have happened if Cluster had some retrospective hand in Miles' 'Shhh/Peaceful'. Similarly, the feel of minimalist cosmic jazz runs through the one-two of 'Pink Flirt' and 'Chasing God Through Palmyra' before blissing itself out into the outer reaches of the universe with the gentle comedown of 'Re:Turn'.

The Gamble is an engaging opening salvo, which one hopes will become the first statement of an ongoing narrative.

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