Review Summary: What is an experiment for ringtones unfortunately amounts to a disappointing listen when compared to the composer's past work.“The 24 parts are not an album - but my first attempt to look at ringtones as a vehicle for musical performance . . . I have made an ‘album cut’ version for the CD and vinyl releases, but that is only one way through the material – I’d expect people to find other ways to use the tracks.”
These are dangerous words by minimalist composer Max Richter. For one, the value of the music here – being so described as not actually being a traditional ‘album’ – will make it difficult for anyone to review and access the work therein. For two, Richter has placed himself in a dangerous position where his fans and critics will be forced to listen to something that’s not typically associated with the renowned composer – a risky experiment instead of a work of art, per se - and as a result, someone is bound to be disappointed. Despite the fact that he himself has stated that 24 Postcards In Full Color
is not a typical album, his collection of ringtones has been assembled in the very framework of one, and as such, this is technically a musical release; that is, able to be graded and accessed as one should be.
The ‘24 Postcards’ are in fact twenty-four short pieces that all stretch to roughly one minute in length. Each track is different than next and features the characteristics that marked Richter’s past releases: single light piano compositions, beds of strings, or random assortments of digital effects play out for roughly one minute for all of the tracks. First listens without looking into the album’s history may cause listeners to search for a deeper meaning here – a possible clue as to Richter’s agenda that might be hidden amongst the placing of the track listing - but as it turns out, Richter has admitted to not writing this album as a conceptual piece like his past releases. In essence, there’s nothing hidden here; there’s just a random assortment of Amazon
-styled clips that amount to an album that depressingly just barely passes the thirty minute mark in length. Considering that there are twenty-four tracks here, saying that this turns out to be a disappointment is a bit of an understatement.
Despite the fact that there is an underwhelming concept and motive behind 24 Postcards In Full Color
, that’s not to say that everything here is worth throwing out. While I’m a bit hesitant to say that pieces like the lush and soothing piano chords of “Lullaby From The West Coast Sleepers” or the blinking electronics of “Tokyo Riddle Song” would make very good ringtones, I can say that these pieces are delicate and relaxed - peaceable and sincere. Another vibrant standout can be found in the acoustic and static ramblings of “In Louisville At 7” that recall the sublime vocal samplings of Richter’s past albums. if Richter had composed these pieces to their full potential – particularly in the area of length, that is – these tracks and the few that dot the album may have joined the ranks of his best work that is found on Memoryhouse
and The Blue Notebooks
It is in the moments of recognition that the album’s best moments are all but ruined by the experimental format that I feel the most disappointed with '24 Postcards'. I realize that Richter did not intend for this to be an album, but unfortunately, it has been released as one and can be judged according. The beautiful pieces found here quickly fade in time and memory with short track lengths, and the random, ambiguous placing of the track listing makes for a disjointed listen throughout the majority of the playing time. The end result of ’24 Postcards’ is a disappointment – a sure far cry from Richter’s stunning past work.