Max Richter
The Blue Notebooks


4.5
superb

Review

by robertsona STAFF
August 12th, 2010 | 27 replies


Release Date: 2004 | Tracklist


“Everyone carries a room about inside them. This fact can be proved by means of the sense of hearing. If someone walks fast and one pricks up one's ears and listens, say at night, when everything round about is quiet, one hears, for instance, the rattling of a mirror not quite firmly fastened to the wall.”

Max Richter carries rooms about inside him; so many, in fact, that the main appeal of his minimalist, impressionistic pieces is that he’s able to construct memoryhouses out of shards of dreams, reflections and developments of people he knows, people he once knew, or people who may not even exist. Throughout The Blue Notebooks, widely considered to be the best of his works, is the vague but unshakable presence of the human spirit, of lives that would have been forgotten had we not had people like Richter to record them in his blue notebooks; of lives beautiful and tragic by turns (sometimes at the same time); of ghostly company suddenly passing through the rooms Richter holds for them and into the rooms we, the listener, hold about inside us, where they will never leave us.

Though it may sound overwhelming at times, Richter’s compositions are always nebulously evocative instead of overly straightforward. Though they work in different genres, a comparable artist is dubstep genius Burial, who conjured images of the gritty British underbelly not by obvious tactics but by subtly weaving musical portraits together; his clattering beats like the industrial sounds of the city, his soft cooing synth pads the strangely beautiful sight of vapor tendrils rising off the dirty street, his deep bass rumbles the ominous feeling of a bus passing by. Richter carefully fuses elements together in a very similar way but instead uses elements of classical piano and string arrangements as well as tinkering with electronic pads and percussion. He also manages to capture a wide palette of emotions with astonishingly simple writing; much of the music featured on this album consists only of variations on a few chords. Even though “Vladimir’s Blues” is barely over a minute long and could be learned on the piano in about that, it still manages to elicit beautiful images of soft rain pattering against a foggy window; a genuine moment of calm reflection before "Arboretum" opens another door and lets us enter a more dreamy, abstract landscape.

Even for those less attuned to Richter’s impressionistic approach, Tilda Swinton’s occasional monologues, pitch-perfectly delivered and gorgeously mysterious in content, explicity bring the sense of human spirit back even when more electronically-focused songs like “Iconography” and “Organum” threaten to go cold (though this is not to say the more “electronic” tracks are less human). These monologues breathe even more life into the tracks, providing fascinating snapshots of cryptic diary entries and fragments of distant lives and moments between moments as a focal point but not interfering with the music that usually follows it.

So much of The Blue Notebooks, in fact, is so perfectly composed and so emotionally invested that the only real complaint I can think of isn’t much of a complaint at all: the album simply feels too short. You see, this is an album that feels endless in possibilities and potential, but also limited in how far it can take us. Richter gives us the key to this house full of memories and human life, but, as soon as “Written on the Sky” starts its meditative first notes, it feels as if some of the rooms are still left tantalizingly locked; the lights suddenly flicker on and we are forced to shut the blue notebooks closed. Still, to criticize an album for being too short is, really, to praise what it manages to do for the length of its duration, and The Blue Notebooks deserves all the praise it can get. In pure evocation of images and emotions, in pure beauty and restraint, in that rare sense of transportation and discovery, it is second to just about none.



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user ratings (264)
Chart.
4.1
excellent
other reviews of this album
Jared Ponton EMERITUS (5)
Long drives into the night, heavy thoughts weighing on your mind, and The Blue Notebooks playing in ...

Matt Wolfe EMERITUS (4.5)
One of the best neoclassical albums of the 21st century....



Comments:Add a Comment 
robertsona
Staff Reviewer
August 12th 2010


16680 Comments


idk lots of confusing stuff in here

Blindsided
August 12th 2010


1871 Comments


Max Richter boner on Sputnik today.

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
August 12th 2010


16680 Comments


i just wrote this after i saw observer's review and realized i had been meaning to review this lol

Ponton
Emeritus
August 12th 2010


6622 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

you had this faster than i thought you would. Love that last sentence a lot.



more love for this album, yes

Digging: Unwound - Leaves Turn Inside You

Enotron
August 12th 2010


7695 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yo mug a third one would be crack

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
August 12th 2010


16680 Comments


huh

edit: wait oh



robin
Emeritus
August 12th 2010


4552 Comments


love reading this, i'm a room =)

IanDavila
August 12th 2010


442 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

love this album... so great memories come along everytime im listening...

IanDavila
August 12th 2010


442 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

yeah have a pos´

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
August 12th 2010


16680 Comments


rooms inside rooms inside rooms inside INCEPTION JOKE

sspedding
August 13th 2010


5239 Comments


SEE YOU AT THE PARTY RICHTER

robertsona
Staff Reviewer
December 22nd 2010


16680 Comments


ugh those swinton monologues so good

Ponton
Emeritus
September 29th 2013


6622 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

ah its the season for this

chitownflip
October 19th 2013


173 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

This is pretty underappreciated

Wadlez
October 23rd 2013


4917 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Love me some Swinton and Richter.

SeaAnemone
August 13th 2014


21407 Comments


oh max richter you are ~beautiful~

TheCrocodile
June 7th 2015


2925 Comments


Still in love with this.

NorthernSkylark
August 26th 2015


9132 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

daylight has me on my knees

Digging: Avey Tare - Cows On Hourglass Pond

zaruyache
October 5th 2015


20540 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

Rules.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
March 9th 2016


24372 Comments


this is so amazing

Digging: Gorguts - Colored Sands



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