With 18 tracks spanning over 100 minutes, Collaborative Works isn't meant to work as one congruent album. It makes no attempt to link the separate works, instead giving each EP its own space in the tracklist. The five-track Loon opens Works with lush synthesizers and sparse melodies, before three electro-acoustic compositions from the first Arnalds and Frahm collaboration, Stare, take the spotlight. Two of this collection's most arresting songs come from Stare: the gorgeous sprawl of "a1" and the densely padded "a2," both of which display the pair's keen melodic sensibilities and immersive sonic textures. Recorded in 2012 but not released until earlier this year, Life Story Love And Glory's two free-flowing piano pieces finish the disc of previously released material.
The second disc features the music from Trance Frendz, a film of Arnalds and Frahm performing and improvising together in Berlin's Durton Studio before they went out on tour. Watching the film, it's easy to see how fluidly the two work together. Both keep their backs to each other as they helm separate pianos, organs and synths, rarely communicating with words or gestures, and yet are incredibly in sync. Using no overdubs, those songs are spacious without sounding empty or incomplete. The limited setup puts the focus on the pair's combined talent, and makes the lull of "20:17" and the pulsating "00:26" feel especially intimate.
Over the past three years, Arnalds and Frahm have covered a good deal of musical ground together. Rich ambient compositions, exploratory kosmische and dual piano pieces are the major landmarks of Collaborative Works, but the artists also explore areas in between. Considering the breadth of the collection, there are bound to be some missteps—the rhythmic drive of "Wide Open" and "W" feel particularly out of place, while some of the pair's piano work blurs together. Nonetheless, it's hard to complain about a release that puts these talented composers' collaborations all in one place.