Nils Frahm & Woodkid ft Robert DeNiro - Ellis (Erased Tapes)

German composer and neo-folk artist team up with Oscar winner for stunning original soundtrack release

Released Jul 8th, 2016 via Erased Tapes / By Jethro West
Nils Frahm & Woodkid ft Robert DeNiro - Ellis (Erased Tapes) Ellis is evidently a mini-album of two parts, split by form and composition, unified by a single phrase: devastatingly beautiful. Yoann Lemoine, aka Woodkid, and Nils Frahm have combined once again, with what feels like perfect symbiosis, to craft the heart-wrenching score to French photographer JR’s short-film of the same name.

At over nine minutes long, ‘Winter Morning I’ manifests itself in a piano symphony, free from orchestration, and brutally telling the story of Ellis Island - the old gateway to North America. And although the two composers successfully create an evocative counterpart to JR’s cinematography, the soundtrack further emanates an aura of frantic desperation. It's this added depth that marks the sign of the times with the world’s current refugee crises and the pair’s support of Sea-Watch, a non-profit charity dedicated to the protection and rescue of civilian refugees.

The opening delicate notes are crushing. The sound of the piano is perfectly organic. The trickling motif begins and fades down into silent anticipation, akin to the closing of the gates on those who were unfortunate enough to be turned away with nothing but the suitcases and family they were clinging to. However, it’s the final third of the track that truly finds the listener lost in every emotion that exudes from the piano. The final fade springs back into life as Frahm tentatively caresses every note and you can’t help but be swept away in its racing climax.

‘Winter Morning II’ is a far more sombre affair. Robert De Niro narrates the story of a refugee who actualises his American Dream by evading the authorities, ‘living at night’ and watching those he met die around him. And although, as Frahm puts it, 'Robert says it all in 17 minutes', De Niro’s rich narration is enhanced and given a chilling edge by the backing of harmonium swells.

The album is simply a musical novella and one that has clearly imbibed the passion of all those involved and Frahm once again aptly remarks: “We are not facing a refugee crisis. We are facing a crisis because we do not embrace, we do not sympathise and we cannot give up fear. Art can encourage so I hope this project will help fight the fear in all of us.”

Check out the official trailer to the film here