Why Nils Frahm is the antidote to shortened attention spans

Frahm's performance invites audience members to switch off.

Life moves too fast in 2018. It’s a hyper-connected mess of an age, in which nobody has time for anything. More often than not, this feeling of relentless restlessness is passed on to the way we consume art, music and pop culture too.

When was the last time you put your headphones on to listen to a song or an album, without doing anything else? When was the last time you watched a TV show or a film without scrolling through your phone, saw a gig without disconnecting yourself from the moment to capture something for your Instagram, or just took the time to do anything — anything at all — with half of your brain sporadically checking off for a cerebral smoko?

That’s not to say doing these things are inherently bad, or devalue the way we consume culture — it’s just pointing out a fact: our attention spans are shorter.

Nils Frahm, however, will change that. This is blissful, ambitious music that beautifully unfurls over a longer period of time than your average song. He asks more of his audience, but rewards them immensely for going on this journey with him.

Across a two-hour set ensconced in dim lights and cavernous reverb, Frahm proved why he is this year’s Melbourne Festival highlight. It’s as if he sees his instruments — spanning synths, tape machines, electric pianos, and grand piano — not just as tools for composition, but as a painter sees his colour palette.

Songs morph, swirl and evolve with light and shade as he makes his way through his collection of sounds — creating dense, layered compositions in real time. It’s a sound uniquely his: iconoclastically drawing from techno, ambient and classical canons all at once to craft something distinctly modern. His music moves in slow motion and, at its best, makes you believe that time has melted away — if not just for the hypnotic duration of his set.

Life moves too fast in 2018. Nils Frahm is here to remind us all to slow down.

By James Di Fabrizio

Nils Frahm's performance was part of the 2018 Melbourne International Arts Festival.