Childhood friends united by a love of tape machines and the flexible nature of sound, nonkeen took more than eight years to assemble an album’s worth of material. In so doing, they actually arrived at two sets. The first, ‘The Gamble’, was released in February while this, the second, follows just five months later. Which of the pair would be released as their full length debut was decided by a coin toss, but all three members soon decided that these thirteen tracks also deserved to be heard. A wise decision, as ‘Oddments Of The Gamble’ is arguably the superior offering.
Having paused a teenage band, Frederic Gmeiner, Sepp Singwald and Nils Frahm drifted back together in their twenties and began composing music in loose, experimental sessions with only half on eye on ever collecting together anything as formal as an album. Even more so than its predecessor, the great strength of nonkeen’s second record is the amorphous nature of its creation. Frahm has already proved his capacity for invigorating improvisation, both onstage in scintillating fashion and on the recent ‘Trance Frendz’ set with Olafur Arnalds. While this music is similarly absorbing, it heads off in rather different directions, at times transcendent, hypnotic and shudderingly climactic.
Opener ‘Kassettenkarussell’ builds into its stride, reaching an oppressive beat, high up in the mix. The shimmering midpoint of ‘Oddments Of The Gamble’, ‘Glow’, rattles around a crazed drum part that feels more like a release than a performance. ‘The Monkey In The Machine’, meanwhile, is a woozy dream resulting from having too much Can before bedtime. It is a fine demonstration of the strung out rhythms at which this trio excel.
‘World Air’ and ‘Obviously Algebra’ form an endearing section where nonkeen go post-rock, while ‘Diving Platform’ has a chiming piano refrain reverberating away beneath a wash of noises, like a Radiohead crescendo turned into a sizeable soundscape. There are some remarkable textures across these tracks, not always immediately enveloping but increasingly beguiling with time. That said, ‘Happy Juno’ and ‘Back and Forth’ occupy the pretty but slightly inessential ground near the album’s centre.
‘The Journey Of Hello Peter’ unravels languorously, jagged guitar lines deployed like intermittent gunfire atop lulling percussion. ‘Schwertfisch’ is the closest thing to the ever excellent solo Frahm catalogue on show here and makes for a fittingly immersive conclusion, coddled in washes of ambient noise. Its nocturnal beauty is a joy, but it’s hard not to yearn for at least a little more of the unabashed cacophony that precedes it.
In some elements, this album is reminiscent of the philosophy behind Primal Scream’s ‘Vanishing Point’, which is no bad thing at all. Strung out dub, triggers of sonic assault and a lopsided krautrock inclination are just a few of the many and varied ingredients deployed across its forty minutes. More than simply a side project and definitely not just a collection of cast-offs, ‘Oddments Of The Gamble’ is a remarkably cohesive listen for something assembled over time and without restrictions.
Words: Gareth James
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