Nils Frahm’s Durton is one of three albums of rare early recordings, many of which have been unobtainable for years, some of which have never been released at all, and none of which have ever appeared on streaming services. All the three records of early works reveal a fascinating glimpse into an era of Frahm’s work known until now only to diehard and longstanding fans. Though he first enjoyed success with 2011’s Felt and the following year’s Screws, both performed on solo piano – which he’d studied throughout his youth – the instrument played no part in his early recording career. ‘Durton’ pairs tracks from 2006’s digital only My First EP with five previously unheard compositions. Recorded almost two decades ago, Durton – a pun on ‘Dur Ton’ (German for the impractical concept of a ‘major note’) – takes its name, as did Frahm’s original Berlin studio, from the first piece of music he ever released in 2005. Aside from Martin Heyne’s guitar on the title track, the album was entirely produced by Frahm in his Hamburg home studio, but other live instrumentation can be heard amongst its delicate micro-electronica, with brass, strings and percussion on, for instance, ‘Personal Lift’.
“They’re probably taken from recordings for other pieces,” Frahm confides. “I don’t even remember who was playing, but it was much earlier, and sometimes we would just reuse outtakes. I wasn’t documenting things well, so I’m not always completely sure what I’m hearing, or how I actually did it.” As for that voice on ‘Now Fast Be Slow’, “If somebody’s singing, it’s definitely me!”