Max Richter
Infra


4.0
excellent

Review

by J. Ponton EMERITUS
July 17th, 2010 | 64 replies


Release Date: 2010 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Richter chooses to leave his cell phone at home

Pardon me for stroking my own ego, but I believe that I have more in common with modern composer Max Richter than the typical everyday man. Case in point: We’re both minimal. We like staying low-key, unnoticed in the party. Damn, we’re the guys without dates standing in the corner behind the nerdy outcasts whom are awkwardly dancing with their nerdy outcastettes - mind you, we’re not alone because we can’t get the fine ladies, but because, well, we just choose not to have them. See those plastic cups of spiked punch in our hands? Yeah, that’s more appealing and comforting than anything a woman, or the world for that matter, could give us. We greet any accomplishments we make with nonchalant flickers of our hands and just head right into the next project, losing consciousness and sleep to our dedication and one-track minds.

But alas, the similarities between Richter and I end there because I don’t make beautifully crafted modern classical music like he does. And neither do you. Neither does anybody, actually. You see, the restraint with which Richter uses and how he arranges his minimal palette of sounds is unmatched by the majority of modern composers. It’s what made career 2004 highlight, The Blue Notebooks, so moving as an album. His as-if-I’ve-been-there piano chords sink and imbue between, behind, and in front of light, perfectly portioned beds of strings and by-the-book minimal electronic pools. The vocal samples of female actress Tilda Swinton, and later those of Robert Wyatt on 2006’s Songs From Before, were both friendly accomplices to aid the effect of the music, not some pretentious Godspeed-wannabes thrown in to fill up the empty spaces. Forget about the gimmicky marketing ploy for ringtones that was 2008’s 24 Postcards in Full Color – let’s just call that one an experiment, rather than an actual album, shall we? - and you'll find that Richter has had a marvelous career as a modern composer.

Oh hey, and it’s about to get even better. If your first experience of Richter is with this year’s Infra, you are in luck. Initially designed as a score to be written with a ballet of the same name, Infra marks the return of the German-born composer to what he’s truly good at doing – you know, making actual albums. Oh yes, he’s chosen to leave his cell phone at home this time out (thank God), making the proper release that should have come after 2006’s Songs From Before. You’ll find Richter’s now-staple compositions of ethereal electronic presses and deeply sentimental keys and string beds here in plenty, all arranged with the restraint and knack for proper placing that has characterized most of the composer’s work of the last decade. There’s not any overarching theme led by any vocal pieces this time out on Infra, though, and the closest thing that you will get to a human voice is a muffled radio static broadcasting announcement in the opening section of “Infra 1”, and later in the colossal build of strings in “Infra 5”. But if you think about it, it’s safe to say that anything of that vocal nature returning on this album would have come off as too much of an attempt to cash in on his 2004 success. He’s just easing back into his routine, slowly and safely, but God it’s a beautiful sound.

Infra is laid out in a, according to Richter anyway, take it as it comes design. The “Journey” and “Infra” suites seem randomized on the tracklisting, but on record they sound anything but haphazardly thrown together. This is an interesting point when describing Richter's music, in that he takes his different instruments, positions them together, and comes out with a completely natural, moving album. This even works with the varying moods that Infra contains, such as the feeling of nervous excitement that comes with the static and orchestral string release on "Infra 5", or in the feeling of eerie post-war abandonment that creeps into your jittering hands found in the static crawling of "Journey 3". This element of varying moods adds something new to Richter's aesthetic that he first used on prior, proper album, Song From Before (like literally), and of course The Blue Notebooks. Where those albums were solemn and tranquil over the course of their lengths, Infra shows that Richter is not afraid to change the mood of his playing field. It's a sign of his growth as a composer, and also his willingness to give listeners something that doesn't copy and paste the outline from his past successes.

But had Richter just gone through the motions and thrown us another minimalistic release with vocal segments thrown in, the fans would still be happy, though, and even the critics, too, I suppose. Not only this, but it would have certainly been better than what we were given two years ago with 2008’s cell phone ringtone experiment, right? Maybe that’s why Infra is such a satisfying release: it’s classic Richter, definitely, but it’s more than that. The composer has refused to stagnate, and while keeping his core sound intact, he’s not out to repeat past successes to cash in on easy money. He’s added a new dimension to his electronic experimentation and varying moods, and though it will be hard to surpass those memorable piano chords on The Blue Notebooks, he’s given us a competent set of keys that aren’t generic in nature. Infra is the return of the German composer that we love, someone that I identify a lot with, and from the sound of it, Richter’s certainly getting back on the right track.



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user ratings (93)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
Sam Feldman's Rating (4.5)
...


Comments:Add a Comment 
Ponton
Emeritus
July 17th 2010


5815 Comments


Album is awesome, big surprise.


Have to register to hear it, sorry:

http://www.absolutepunk.net/artists/showlink.php?do=showdetails&l=32572

Digging: Ben Howard - I Forget Where We Were

Skimaskcheck
July 17th 2010


2362 Comments


hah, amazing review man, i'll hopefully pick this up soon too now. didn't even know he was releasing a new one! what's the release date for it?

Ponton
Emeritus
July 17th 2010


5815 Comments


Thanks chambered. The album is a big surprise, both in that I didn't know about it until last week and that he's gone back to the blue notebooks/songs from before style. If you loved that one, you should definitely enjoy this.

Thanks Skimask, it comes out on the 20th in North America, but the 19th everywhere else.

SeaAnemone
July 17th 2010


20782 Comments


a little less formal than most of yours, but I really like this review! come to think of it, it's definitely one of my favorites of yours I can think of... excellent work

I suppose I should hear this as The Blue Notebooks was awesome, even though Memoryhouse is a little lackluster

Digging: Dirty Beaches - Stateless

SlightlyEpic
July 17th 2010


5780 Comments


love this guy

and whaaat memoryhouse is awesome eric

SeaAnemone
July 17th 2010


20782 Comments


aww thanks Slightly ; )

edit: gah I posted that before you addressed me and I just assumed the first part of your comment was for me : (

SlightlyEpic
July 17th 2010


5780 Comments


my ninja edit ruined that for you i bet you feel silly now :3

Ponton
Emeritus
July 17th 2010


5815 Comments


Thanks Sea, and I too didn't enjoy memoryhouse as much as others did either. I think the review for that album was the first of mine that you commented on, come to think of it.

People should also check out Songs From Before. It's great too and seems to be forgotten here on sputnik. Really happy with this album, especially after 24 postcards.

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
July 17th 2010


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

HELLO WHATS THIS

robin
Emeritus
July 17th 2010


4257 Comments


can't imagine max richter at a party. lively review jared =)

Ponton
Emeritus
July 17th 2010


5815 Comments


HELLO WHATS THIS


Yeah, i know, little to any news was given for this around here at all. Thanks Robin!

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
July 17th 2010


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

also this review is fantastic when youre writing what you want to write (see: the first 3 or 4 paragraphs). I was with you and engaged, but I got the impression that towards the end of the review you felt obligated to give an "album description," which was where the review kind of faltered (faltered being a relative term for you; you're still one of the best writers on the site and when you "falter" it's not like it goes to shit or anything).

I'm guessing this is because that, as with The Blue Notebooks, describing the literal components of the record goes little way in describing the albums true quality. To say "there are piano chords and such" helps me know how it sounds, but not how I'll respond to it, you know? Granted, you only do this for a couple sentences and I think you used it to fill out paragraphs whose point I understood early on, so it didn't detract too much at all.

I just think in the beginning you had this passionate streak of how you felt about this record and how it related to other Richter records and how 24 Postcards is an abortion and then you felt like you had to give a description of the literal bits for the reader to "get it," which, for me, I didn't need. I was sold on this record's quality and sound as soon as you told me so =)

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
July 17th 2010


6268 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Excellent review. Pos'd.

Listening to it right now.

This is so relaxing...

A good distraction from my normal listening habits (i'm a metal fan)

I will keep an eye on Mr. Richter from now on.

Digging: Electric Moon - Innside Outside

Electric City
Staff Reviewer
July 17th 2010


15743 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

obviously these are all incredibly minor quips and I posd immediately after reading, just poppin in idk

Ponton
Emeritus
July 17th 2010


5815 Comments


Major props for the feedback, Adam, and yeah, I see what you're saying. If that was cut down, it would help on the length too. edit: Actually, thinking about it, your last paragraph really just about nails it. I was worried about those readers that say "hey you didn't really talk about the music" i suppose, but i didn't bridge the gap as well as i could have

Really glad you like it so far, Voivod, especially since it's not your usual stuff. Better get on the Blue Notebooks too if you get a chance

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
July 17th 2010


6268 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It reminds me of soundtracks that belong to European films.

Well the guy is from Germany, so it figures.

I really enjoyed the soundtrack of Waltz with Bashir when i watched the film in a cinema, but i didn't know who wrote it.




edit: Observer you should listen to

Kreng (http://www.sputnikmusic.com/album.php?reviewid=31617&genreid=5) and
Ulver's Lyckantropen Themes (http://www.sputnikmusic.com/album.php?albumid=33813).

Some of the tunes of Infra reminded me of Kreng and Ulver.

Ponton
Emeritus
July 17th 2010


5815 Comments


Alright, EC, I edited and took what you said in mind, got rid of a paragraph and tackled the mood, as well the sound, concisely in the best way i could. I hope that reads better.

I've checked out Ulver before Voivod, but ill give Kreng a listen. Thanks for the Recs!

Hyperion1001
Staff Reviewer
July 17th 2010


18854 Comments


You make this sound really, really good. I'll definitely check this out.

Digging: Substance / Vainqueur - Reverberation / Reverberate

EVedder27
July 17th 2010


6088 Comments


sweet, sweet review Jared. Seems to me like you could be getting another promotion sometime soon.

AggravatedYeti
July 17th 2010


7685 Comments


Pontastic.



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