Max Richter The Blue Notebooks on 180g LP + Download
Max Richter is a British-based, German-born pianist and composer. Following 2002’s highly-acclaimed Memoryhouse - performed by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and released on the BBC’s classical label, Late Junction - 2004's The Blue Notebooks is his second solo album, a distinctive and adventurous work that is beautifully recorded and cinematic in scope.
Opening with a text from Franz Kafka over a sparse piano melody, the album moves through gorgeous, heart-wrenching string swells of "On The Nature Of Daylight" (which quotes a tune from Memoryhouse); through to sparse but lyrical piano pieces; hazy, swirling atmospherics, avalanche pulse-beats and partially occluded melodies that recall Aphex twin’s ‘Ambient Works’ albums; and to reverberant organ / choir recordings.
Utilizing piano, cello, violin and viola, alongside electronic beats (made using a variety of antique electronics and Reaktor), spoken word passages and the occasional field recording, other sounds were generated via old guitar pedals and vocoders. The organ music was made for a chapel near Tourtres in South-West France, whilst the environmental sounds are mainly recorded around London. The tone of the album is generally downbeat – a series of bittersweet articulations that seem suspended somewhere between a certain dreamy sense of wonder / awe and a heavy melancholia.
Peppered across Richter’s music like diary entries (and backed with attendant typewriter clatter) are a number of literary texts or ‘shadow journals’ (lifted from Kafka’s ‘the Blue Octavo notebooks’, and from Polish author Czseslaw Milosz’s ‘Hymn Of The Pearl’ and ‘Unattainable Earth’). Apparently chosen by Richter on instinct, they were recorded by acclaimed British actress, Tilda Swinton. These brief passages muse over time, memory, and the impermanent nature of things. With Richter playing piano, the other featured players here are his regular collaborators, Louisa Fuller (violin), Natalia Bonner (violin), John Metcalfe (viola), Philip Sheppard (cello), and Chris Worsey (cello).
"...[not only one of the finest records] of the last six months, but one of the most affecting and universal contemporary classical records in recent memory...Each of the piano pieces "Horizon Variations," "Vladimir's Blues" and "Written in the Sky" establish strong melodic motifs in under two minutes, all the while resisting additional orchestration. Elsewhere, Richter's string suites are similarly striking; "On the Nature of Daylight" coaxes a stunning rise out of gently provincial arrangements while the comparatively epic penultimate track "The Trees" boasts an extended introductory sequence for what is probably the album's closest brush with grandiosity." Mark Pytlik, Pitchfork 2004
Max Richter The Blue Notebooks Track Listing:
1. The Blue Notebooks
2. On The Nature of Daylight
3. Horizon Variations
4. Shadow Journal
6. Vladimir's Blues
8. Old Song
10. The Trees
11. Written On the Sky
12. On the Nature of Daylight