Review Summary: Max Richter debuts on a strong note, but unfortunately, he seems to have taken on more than he could handle at the time.
Buried under the critical acclaim of the beautiful and majestic The Blue Notebooks
lies Max Richter’s debut album, Memoryhouse
. The composer created a subtle and varied album for his first release; this work contains many ideas and instruments for the majority of the music here such as the simple and delicate piano backdrops, light digital effects, and a few choir vocalists that show up along the way as well. However, there’s something grander and more upfront about Memoryhouse
’s final product in relation to the ominous and soothing sophomore release. Be it the longer album length, the incorporation of the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
into a number of the pieces, or just what might be a different agenda altogether for the composer in comparison to that of future releases, Memoryhouse
is just not quite as easy to absorb as a whole. The album is a different classical house of compositions altogether; listen after listen is needed to fully obtain the artist’s intent, and even after that, things may not be entirely clear.
A quiet drizzle puts the record into motion in “Europe After Rain”; after which, a low piano piece begins to play. On a side note that is in relation to the quiet first track, I have noticed that the production values for this record are clear yet the volume is surprisingly low in the mix. Initially, I thought there was something wrong with my version, but having purchased another copy through Amazon
, I now know that it was just recorded that way. The record proceeds from there in what seems to be a cycle of piano, digital, symphonic, and ambient pieces. “The Twins” and “Andras” contain simple chord progressions that sooth and consolidate listeners and the theatrics of “Sarajevo” and “November” switch up the mood with a more driving and building structure of strings. The latter is simply a beautiful piece that displays a Richter’s talent for grandeur and excitement that seemed to disappear after this album.
The second half of the album continues on in much the same way as that of the first. “Arbenita (11 Dreams)” sees the composer combine his collection of musical elements displayed thus far within its seven minute playing time. Sparse piano keys dot and drop under a bed of strings while a female vocalist’s voice carries the mood of the track in the background. The star track of the set is undoubtedly “Last Days”. Max Richter and the orchestra build over the four minute track length and climax accordingly at the end in a relatively short explosion. One of the elements that added a beautiful atmosphere to The Blue Notebooks
were the inclusion of spoken vocal parts that would often quote pieces of literature throughout the tracks. These debut on this album as well – as heard on “Laika’s Journey”, “Sarajevo”, and “Garden (1973)” – and add more to the weighty feel of the listen. Unfortunately, the desired effect that was perfected later on just distracts on this outing and fails to add to the atmosphere of the tracks. What’s more, the voices are generally whispered and require listeners to raise the volume of their speakers to even hear and understand them.
comes off as a bit pretentious in the end. Max Richter seems to not have been ready to take on the grandiosity of the compositions and themes that he has presented here, and the fact that he scaled things down a lot for his next release just buffers my thoughts and opinion on the subject. Still, when the album succeeds, it really succeeds, and many of the compositions to be found here – particularly those that feature the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra
- make for an excellent listen when played separately from the album.