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Sunday, October 4, 2009


Blending classical, electronic and rock influences into a style he calls "post-Classical," composer/programmer Max Richter ignores boundaries in favor of haunting, strangely familiar sounds. Born in Germany in the mid-'60s, Richter and his family moved to the U.K. when he was still a little boy; by his early teens, he was listening to the canon of classical music as well as modern composers, including Philip Glass, whose sound was a major influence on Richter. the Clash, the Beatles, and Pink Floyd were also important, along with the early electronic music scene; inspired by artists such as Kraftwerk, Richter built his own analog instruments. He studied composition and piano at Edinburgh University, the Royal Academy of Music, and in Florence with Luciano Berio. Richter then became a founding member of the Piano Circus, a contemporary classical group that played works by Glass, Brian Eno, Steve Reich, Arvo Pärt, and Julia Wolfe, and also incorporated found sounds and video into their performances. After ten years and five albums, Richter left the group and became more involved in the U.K.'s thriving electronica scene, collaborating with the Future Sound of London on Dead Cities (which features a track named after him) and Isness; he also contributed orchesrations to Roni Size's In the Mode. Richter's own work evolved from the Xenakis-inspired music of his early days into something that included his electronic and pop influences: 2003's Memoryhouse introduced his mix of modern composition, electronica, and field recordings, and the following year's stunning Blue Notebooks — inspired by Kafka's Blue Octavo Notebooks — showed off a more streamlined, and more affecting, version of this sound. 2006's Songs from Before paired Richter's plaintive sound with texts written by Haruki Murakami and delivered by Robert Wyatt; two years later, 24 Postcards in Full Colour, a collection of elaborate ringtones, was released closely followed by his first work for the big screen, animated documentary soundtrack's Waltz with Bashir.

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Max Richter's Memoryhouse is a journey though the 20th century which unfolds like the soundtrack to an imaginary film. Combining the BBC Philharmonic under conductor Rumon Gamba--no strangers to recording classic film scores--with atmospheric electronics, the result is a melancholy evocation of love, loss and survival, often with the focus on Eastern Europe. Minimalism with a deeply emotional core, overlaid with fragments of poetic voices, the melodic sensibility lies between Philip Glass's minimalism.

1. Europe, After the Rain
2. Maria, the Poet (1913)
3. Laika's Journey
4. The Twins (Prague)
5. Sarajevo
6. Andras
7. Untitled (Figures)
8. Sketchbook
9. November
10. Jan's Notebook
11. Arbenita (11 Years)
12. Garden (1973)/Interior
13. Landscape with Figure (1922)
14. Fragment
15. Lines on a Page (One Hundred Violins)
16. Embers
17. Last Days
18. Quartet Fragment (1908)

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Richter has created a soundtrack for our time. It is at once reflective and the music itself has the power to carry us to that inner place of denial, peace, sorrow, joy, regret, forgiveness, whether it be for ourselves or those once loved, forgotten or dearly missed.
There is no denying that Richter has created a musical space that is highly personal. Yes, there are many great pieces of orchestral music and many of them convey much of the same emotion, but Richter has done so in a way that is a coherent journey from start to finish. The level of musicianship and production value in this recording is very high; it is challenging to create and execute music at this level.

1. The Blue Notebooks
2. On The Nature Of Daylight
3. Horizon Variations
4. Shadow Journal
5. Iconography
6. Vladimir's Blues
7. Arboretum
8. Old Song
9. Organum
10. The Trees
11. Written On The Sky

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This record is a resounding success. From the first note, the sound is cavernous, and entombed beneath some of the most mournful orchestration imaginable are musical secrets and recycled sonic treasure.

1. Song
2. Flowers For Yulia
3. Fragment
4. Harmonium
5. Ionosphere
6. Autumn Music 1
7. Time Passing
8. Sunlight
9. Lullaby
10. Autumn Music 2
11. Verses
12. From The Rue Vilin

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With his fourth album, Berlin-based Richter further cements his status as one of the leading lights of modern composition. Each of this album's twenty-four tracks is a classically-composed ringtone, an evocative miniature whose theme, though fully developed, hints at a larger piece; thus Richter explores the fugitive nature of memory through reprises and repetition throughout this intriguing album. With a sonic palette consisting of string quintet, solo piano, 16-track 2-inch tape, transistors, found shortwave radio, vinyl clicks, dust, scratches and rumble, and acoustic guitars, Richter's latest effort is both beautifully detailed and sonically rich.

1. The Road Is A Grey Tape
2. H In New England
3. This Picture Of Us. P.
4. Lullaby From The Westcoast Sleepers
5. When The Northern Lights/Jasper And Louise
6. Circles From The Rue Simon-Crubellier
7. Cascade Nw By W
8. A Sudden Manhattan Of The Mind
9. In Louisville At 7
10. Cathodes
11. I Was Just Thinking
12. A Song For H/Far Away
13. Return To Prague
14. Broken Symmetries For Y
15. Berlin By Overnight
16. Cradle Song For A (Interstate B3)
17. Kierling/Doubt
18. From 553 W Elm Street, Logan Illinois (Snow)
19. Tokyo Riddle Song
20. The Tartu Piano
21. Caold Fusion For G
22. 32 Via San Nicolo
23. Found Song For P
24. H Thinks A Journey

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Post-minimalist composer Max Richter's first film score is his finest work released yet on cd. Dark, intense and simoultaneously chilling and moving - Richter blends post-Philip Glass minimalism with baroque, with elements of techno and ambient thrown in for effect and delivers the finest film score of the year. A work of genius from a prodigiously gifted young composer.

2. Iconography
3. The Haunted Ocean 1
5. Shadow Journal
6. Enola Gay (Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark)
7. The Haunted Ocean 2
8. Taxi And APC
9. Any Minute Now/Thinking Back
10. I Swam Out To Sea/Return
11. Patchouli Oil And Karate
12. This Is Not A Love Song (Public Image Ltd)
13. What Have They Done?
14. Into The Airport Hallucination
15. The Slaughterhouse
16. The Haunted Ocean 3
17. Into The Camps
18. The Haunted Ocean 4
19. Andante/Reflection (End Title)
20. The Haunted Ocean 5 (Solo Version)


muffinass said...

thank you for introducing me to these works, and Max Richter...the thank-you should've come earlier since your Scelsi posting.

your blog awakens a feeling of musical discovery similar to that which Kundera described as "opening the door for the soul to come out and make friends".

thanks for the music !

dubmusic said...

Thank you for the Richter special. New name to me - even though I initially thought this was Max Richter - the painter, who, incidentally uses oil on canvas as this young Max Richter composes music. Very intriguing.

Ron said...

Thank you. I am really enjoying the Blue Notebooks.

CBCD said...

Thank you.

CBCD said...

Thank you.