Nils Frahm @ The Independent 3/17/14 - photo by Nicole Browner
Photos by Nicole Browner

Experimental German musician and composer Nils Frahm played a spectacular show Sunday night at the Independent. Onstage with a grand piano, an electric piano, two synthesizers, an old drum machine he bought at a flea market, and a number of foot pedals, the Berlin-based composer brought his songs to life using loops and contorting his body to reach from instrument to instrument. Performing before a sold-out, seated crowd, Frahm chose to play songs primarily from his 2013 LP, Spaces.

Still suffering from jetlag after the long flight from Germany, Frahm politely apologized in his opening remarks for any mistakes and then went off on a rattling dub-bass track that made a graceful thunder in the Independent. From there, Frahm began his most popular song, “Says”, a brooding, looping, beautiful composition that combines the atmospherics of the best ambient musicians with the distorted-menace of a Fuck Buttons song. Throughout the set, Frahm continued to mix things up — a few piano-only pieces, then the creative “For – Peter – Toilet Brushes – More”, in which he pounded on the guts of his grand piano with toilet brushes to create a percussive, melodic beat.

Despite the darkness of his music, Frahm kept the audience laughing hysterically throughout the night with jokes and stories about his equipment breaking, jet leg, and dancing while seated. Undoubtedly, Frahm proved that grace, laughter, and good-naturedness belong in the same realm as challenging and dark experimental piano music — something that I’m not sure many of us realized until we all were lucky enough to watch this brilliant man perform.

Nils Frahm @ The Independent 3/17/14 - photo by Nicole Browner

Douglas Dare @ The Independent 3/17/14 - photo by Nicole Browner