oddments of the gamble
An engineer or an architect may complete a project, only to realize afterwards there is still more of the story to tell. Alas, as their professions would have it, a significant number of generally uncooperative parties (including the money people) need to be motivated to ensure that can take place.
Musicians, certainly, are in a much better position to speedily conjure creative sequels—especially considering what’s usually left on the cutting room floor. Splice + edit = instant Pt. II.
Thus the curious title of nonkeen’s new album, oddments of the gamble. The more concisely monikered the gamble was an album released by the group this February; an “oddment” is a fragment or remnant left over from something apparently unfinished. Get it?
nonkeen, should you not know, is one of the many artistic dalliances of prolific German experimentalist Nils Frahm (working here with childhood friends Frederic Gmeiner and Sebastian Singwald). A distinctly modern composer with a reputation for conceptual seriousness, Frahm takes the opportunity to explore a more linear, cinematic brand of storytelling.
Which is what’s so fascinating about the vocal-free oddments: for a collection of outlier bits, it’s remarkably cohesive. With little effort, you can readily create a filmic narrative in your head by means of its vivid sonic imagery.
From the jittery, unsettling opener “Kassettenkarussell” to the heart-racing anxiousness of “Told and Small” to the slow and pensive “The Journey of Hello Peter,” one is immediately sent wandering deep into a seemingly harrowing story without words. “People in Dresden out for a Walk/Reisegenuss,” at just twelve seconds long, suggests being accompanied out of danger and into the light. “Happy Juno,” indeed, is the sound of revelation and hope.
What is perhaps most astonishing are the spectacular, visceral dynamics. “World Air” lulls one into a deeply pensive moment, only to coax the listener further into a terrordome of thundering drums and escalatingly ominous atmospherics. It suggests being dragged to the very edge of the world.
This is music that rewards patience and engagement. In place of hooks, there is the agitation of imagination; in place of words, there are expeditions of the mind.