Monday, October 16, 2006

MAX RICHTER: Songs From Before (130701 / Fat-Cat Records)

MAX RICHTER
Songs From Before
CD1305
130701 / Fat-Cat Records 2006
12 Tracks. 37mins18secs




Buy it: CD
Max Richter | Fat-Cat Records

British-born composer and musician Max Richter studied composition and piano at Edinburgh University and at the Royal Academy Of Music before pursuing his studies in Florence under the late Italian composer Luciano Berio. Richter then co-founded contemporary classical ensemble Piano Circus in 1989, and spent ten years performing works by Arvo Pärt, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Graham Fitkins, Louis Andriessen, Brian Eno and many more with them. During this time, he developed an interest for sampling and electronic instrumentation, which led him to work with The Future Sound Of London on their 1996 album Dead Cities. His first album as a composer and musician, Memoryhouse, was recorded with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and released on the BBC Radio 3's Late Junction imprint in 2002.

It is not until his sophomore effort, The Blue Notebooks, published two years later on Fat-Cat's sub-label 130701, that Richter's profile became more prominent. While Richter's debut combined classical instrumentation and discreet electronics, the process was developed further on The Blue Notebooks to add grain and texture to the music. He has since been involved in a variety of projects, including producing the long-awaited second album by folk legend Vashti Bunyan.

For Songs From Before, Richter has teamed up with the same string ensemble as on The Blue Notebooks, augmented with readings from Japanese poet Haruki Murakami by Robert Wyatt. Very much like on its predecessors, Songs From Before is haunted by rampant melancholy and swirling melodic themes, creating a dense atmospheric backdrop for more subtle ornamental elements to flourish.

Richter shares a deep sense of minimalism with the likes of Steve Reich or Arvo Pärt, but there is a more cinematic and evocative feel to his compositions, at times evoking the work of Michael Nyman, or Ennio Morricone even. This contributes greatly in Richter's music being at once superbly forward-thinking and extremely accessible. From the sparse melodies of Song or Flowers For Yulia to the crystalline lines of Fragment, Autumn Music 1 or Sunlight and the dense torpor of Ionosphere, Time Passing or Lullaby, Richter plays tricks with the mind by constantly affecting the atmospheric canvas of his compositions. Wyatt's smoky voice surfaces at regular interval, adding grain to the spellbinding aspect of the music.

Songs From Before doesn't instantly appear that different from its predecessors, and in many ways, it is not. Richter is said to view his work as a composer as a long evolutionary process, and this album reflects this in the way it feels very much in tune with both Memoryhouse and The Blue Notebooks, but each one of these records has a particular density, and Songs From Before is no exception.

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