Oddments of the Gamble is Nonkeen’s second record of the year following directly on from debut LP The Gamble. The title(s) refer to a coin toss which decided which collection of songs would get released first by the largely improvisational jazz/post-rock trio, who apparently have many collections of their basement recorded tapes ready for release.
While The Gamble was a bit more on the electronic side of things, Oddments has much more of a live band feel, with accomplished pianist Nils Frahm, leading the charge with the kind of beautiful playing that has got him so distinguished in the first place.
Nonkeen have a storied past up to this point, with Frahm and his childhood friend Frederic Gmeiner growing up in Hamburg were visited by third member Sebastian Singwald on a ports exchange trip from still occupied East Berlin in the late Eighties. They remained friends and eventually formed this group in reunified Berlin 20 years later.
And that level of friendship and trust is perhaps why Nonkeen work as a band. For a group of terrific players such as these do not necessarily make a cohesive unit as a musical group. However, the confidence in these largely improvised takes (the band allegedly only use minimal overdubs and loops) show a great deal of prowess in these movements which are highly engaging.
For instance, early tracks such as ‘the journey of hello peter’ and ‘diving platform’ are the only fully formed 'songs', ie the only tracks clocking in at 5 mins+, but fully justify their longer existence. The former is a dub-influenced track which grows in stature as it progresses, while the immediately following track is a gorgeous, sweeping piano led post rock track all the while being held together by Gmeiner’s jazzy drumming style.
Crucially, nothing out stays its welcome in Oddments, tracks slip in and out of consciousness but never detract from the overall flow of the record. Pieces that are quite likely to be longer jams are smartly edited so as to keep the record fresh and surprising, something the previous gamble perhaps lacked. It is therefore perhaps useful to think these 'songs' as 'sketches' (most tracks here clock in at two or three minutes) which together for an entire landscape. When people started accusing “post-rock” – for lack of a better term – of growing stale and predictable around a decade ago, it is was perhaps the lack of risk or gamble involved which drove this opinion. One of the many thrilling things about Oddments is hearing the gamble take place before our ears.
A good example of this is ‘World Air Master’ and ‘Obviously Algebra’ in the latter stages of the record which remind one of Yanqui U.X.O-era Godspeed, which while was a criminally underrated record, is brought back to life in tremendous form in these short sketches, cutting out any waffle in favour of the performance.
Ultimately, Oddments builds on the already impressive gamble to produce a gorgeous record which the likes of this 'genre' hasn’t seen for some time. For a record that is largely improvised, it is stunning that such a cohesive piece can be put together and it will be fascinating to see what other tricks this trio has up their sleeve.
8Adam Turner-Heffer's Score