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.
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.