Release Date: Aug 5, 2016
Record label: R&S
The lead track on Oddments of the Gamble, “kassettenkarussel,” opens with a ten-second burst of rough static, something akin to the roar of a highway full of 18-wheelers as filtered though a cheap, busted mike. But don’t search for much in the way of abrasiveness on the new album from nonkeen, the lower-case–loving trio of Nils Frahm and his Berlin-based cohorts Frederic Gmeiner and Sebastian Singwald; there’s comforting, soothing beauty to much of Oddments, which, as the name implies, is a quick follow-up to this past winter’s The Gamble, and is largely culled from the same batch of source material. Though many of Oddments’ tracks are infused with a feeling of tranquility and/or elation, there is a certain inherent glitchiness to the album, as one would expect given the recording process.
Oddments of the Gamble is Nonkeen’s second record of the year following directly on from debut LP The Gamble. The title(s) refer to a coin toss which decided which collection of songs would get released first by the largely improvisational jazz/post-rock trio, who apparently have many collections of their basement recorded tapes ready for release. While The Gamble was a bit more on the electronic side of things, Oddments has much more of a live band feel, with accomplished pianist Nils Frahm, leading the charge with the kind of beautiful playing that has got him so distinguished in the first place.
Like a rare astronomical event, nonkeen have aligned for their second full-length release of 2016. The 13 new songs on Oddments of the Gamble still feature the band's incandescent arrangements, but their sophomore effort finds the band in a slightly different phase, revealing a more melancholic shape, and sounding notably hazier than on February's The Gamble. The lushly textured instrumentals also feel more improvised, their glinting beauty occasionally eclipsed by unyielding reverb.
Less than half a year ago, German trio nonkeen put out the gamble, an album full of swirling, jazz-indebted compositions. Many attributed the album to Nils Frahm and pals, which in a sense is true; the trio comprises the hypnotic composer and two of his lifelong friends. But The Gamble revealed a far more complex reality than that line might suggest — and the music was far more complex than the early impressions of ambience.
Nils Frahm’s music is palatable. It lingers there, on the palate, like hard candy, with uncomplicated bliss. It leaves you satisfied; pleased, not dazed; comforted, not displaced. His pieces occupy spots on many Spotify “Chill” playlists — “Peaceful Piano” and “The Most Beautiful Songs in the World,” which includes “True Love Waits” by Radiohead and “The Quiet at Night” by Mary Lattimore, songs that are “beautiful.” These playlists have hundreds of thousands of followers who yearn to possess beauty in three clicks.
As band-formation stories go, nonkeen have one of the most quaint. While many bands formed in their school days, few can say they have been an item since elementary school. Fewer still can claim that they made music together at that age whilst navigating the politics of band members residing on either side of the Berlin Wall. Nevertheless, the trio of Nils Frahm, Sepp Singwald, and Frederic Gmeiner have maintained a musical relationship well into their 20s and are now releasing their second full-length, Oddments of the Gamble.
German improvisational group Nonkeen's early-2016 debut, The Gamble, was the product of several years' worth of homegrown experimentation from three childhood friends (namely Nils Frahm, Frederic Gmeiner, and Sebastian Singwald). After accumulating numerous tracks recorded during informal sessions over the course of nearly a decade, the band had several albums' worth of material ready to release. They assembled two albums and flipped a coin to decide which one to put out first.
nonkeen’s second album of the year is a slow paced soliloquy of odious percussion and drunk, sorrowful melodies. It’s the sound of the universe as it gradually expands, causing different astral bodies to pull away from each other emitting a cavernous sound of gravitational dissonance to fall out among the stars. Its analogue fetishness oozes throughout, interspeced with jazz rhythms, progressive-haunting keys and a rough-edge of tape fuzz that takes away all pretensions.