Sunday, April 18, 2004

I cast a spell on the city . . .

Max Richter's The Blue Notebooks is brilliant. Before attempting a solo effort in 2002 with Memoryhouse, Richter co-founded the Piano Circus, a six-pianist ensemble formed to perform Steve Reich's Six Pianos composition. The Piano Circus continued to perform other Reich works, along with works by Philip Glass and Arvo Pärt. The mid-late 90s saw Richter working with the Future Sound of London and Roni Size. All of this previous work has helped inspire this haunting, beautiful orchestral album. The more classical influences are quite evident throughout the album, while there are more subtle signs of the electronic influence, in the form of lowly mixed yet thundering beats on "Shadow Journal," dabbling beats on "Arboretum" or different samples Richter recorded around London. Actress Tilda Swinton appears on a number of tracks reading excerpts of literary texts lifted from Frank Kafka’s The Blue Octavo Notebooks and Czseslaw Milosz’s Hymn Of The Pearl and Unattainable Earth. With a typewriter clicking in the background, these excerpts act as diary entries that open a few of the longer pieces on The Blue Notebooks. The album moves from classical pieces to more ambient-type works, often having a soundtrack feel (especially the final track, "Written On The Sky," which wouldn't be out of place on Michael Nyman's soundtrack to The Piano). Released on the Fat Cat imprint 130701, this is a gorgeous album that you MUST hear.

posted by Jonathan


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