FRAMES – ‘In Via’ (SPV)
“Storm, stress, beginning, and change.” Not my own sentiments, but a summary of ‘In Via’ put forward by the band’s guitarist Jonas Meyer when asked to describe the album in four (English!) words. I belatedly picked up on Frames’ debut album ‘Mosaic’(“one of the most atmospheric and evocative albums you’re ever likely to hear... What Jonas Meyer, Manuel Schönfeld, Moses Hoffman and Kiryll Kulakowski have put together is pretty much a unique soundscape for the twenty-first century with roots reaching back to Seventies’ German artrock”) and now two years later the German instrumental quartet are back with its follow-up, the equally entrancing ‘In Via’.
It’s a truly great body of work, no doubt about that, and to my mind ‘In Via’ is a bigger, bolder album than ‘Mosaic’. It’s obviously cut from the same cloth, but using this time around a more stylish pattern. It's a lot heavier overall too, although it still has those moments of beguiling beauty that makes the music so attractive. And thereby hangs the tail. There is so much going on in each and every track that every play reveals something new, something hitherto undiscovered. Power and passion clash in ‘Encounter’, a song which builds to an extremely heavy climax. ‘Stir’ kicks off all quirky and off-beat before settling into an elegant groove and allowing Meyer’s guitar to dominate proceedings. And ‘Don’t Stay Here’ has a beautiful piano-led refrain which is nearly, very nearly, but never quite overwhelmed by the pure driving force of the rest of keyboard player Schönfeld’s bandmates.
All told, it’s a more intricate album altogether, a sentiment which the guitarist shares. “‘In Via’ is more complex, especially in terms of the development of the sound. Our main concern this time was to focus on the sound, to create a kind of band sound. We experimented a lot in the studio and our engineer, Arne Borchard, was a huge help for us to reach our goals. The current sound is now more earthy and conforms more to how we see and hear ourselves. And maybe the compositions themselves have a bigger ‘band-width’. ‘Mosaik’ was our first album, and I guess we have all developed as musicians and collected new influences to put in this new record.”
With so much going on though the album is still immediately accessible, and despite the seeming fragility of some of the compositions ‘In Via’ still begs to be played and enjoyed at considerable volume. “Overall, the heavier parts are heavier and the ‘beautiful’ parts are more, well, ‘spacey’. But somehow both sides do belong to us,” claims Meyer. A contradiction, or the most perfect balance of light and shade? You decide.
© John Tucker April 2012