Baker's Dozen

Artists discuss the 13 records that shaped their lives

Music Is Not Sport: Nils Frahm’s Favourite Albums

Before he releases his Late Night Tales compilation, the pianist, composer and new classical ("I never liked it, but I'm stuck with it now; give me something cool like 'neo jazz'") pioneer gives Karl Smith a tour of his favourite overlooked records, by musicians "that deserve a little afterglow"

Photograph courtesy of Alex Kozobolis

In emails preceding meeting Nils Frahm – the man who played a defining role in the ushering into the wider cultural consciousness of minimalistic, new classical piano as something intensely vibrant, resonant and contemporary – I’m given his list of 13 albums. And along with that list great pains are made to ensure I know these aren’t Frahm’s favourite records of all time. When I press him on this, wondering why – given the chance – he’s decided to eschew ego and to not pick his own Big Thirteen, his answer is refreshing, if not initially disconcerting: "I usually cancel all interviews which are about my favourite records. Music is not sport: favourite releases of 2014, all that stuff, it’s just the wrong way to approach music."

"The list represents music I think is really special; music that is, at least, really important to me but that is easily overlooked. There’s some common names on there, like Miles Davis, but everybody knows Kind Of Blue and everyone knows Bitches Brew. I wanted to choose albums that might not be so well known but that make you think ‘these are actually magical’."

Part of the reason we’re here, though, is because Frahm has put together a new compilation of 22 tracks by way of his contribution to the Late Night Tales series. It’s with eyebrow half-cocked, then, that I float the idea that maybe, possibly, what he might have done there is made a list: "It’s really not about my favourite music, or about favourite music at all. Music can be used for so many different things – for putting people in a certain type of mood. They’re just really good tracks, creating a certain kind of atmosphere."

The compilation is, in a sense, quintessential Frahm. The tracks he’s chosen – from Boards Of Canada to Nina Simone – and the edits he’s made to them for the purpose of these Late Night Tales are as indicative of his taste and his own musical background as any of his own oeuvre. The ‘magical’ quality he refers to, which by its nature immediately sounds folksy or elysian, is actually palpable in the same way that on the most humid of summer evenings the air can be a comforting, spectral cloak or a tonne of fucking bricks.

But, every action having an equal and opposite reaction, Frahm sips his coffee and muses – between telling me with a mixture of melancholy and quiet anguish about the destruction of his beloved synths at last night’s BBC Radio 6 Music Proms – on what might have been had he picked a certified Nils Frahm Baker’s Dozen of Favourite Albums.

"All my favourite records, The Beatles’ Revolver and all the really famous ones that everyone knows – I didn’t put them in here. I could have put Aphex Twin and Boards Of Canada, but I didn’t because everyone knows them already. I have a certain following, but I don’t want to talk about the stuff that everybody knows already and assumes that I like."

He pauses for a moment and then, in the psithurismic style of his music, adds, "I would like to talk about musicians dead or alive who I think deserve a little afterglow."

Late Night Tales: Nils Frahm is out tomorrow on Late Night Tales

First Record

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