MAX RICHTER: Memoryhouse (130701/Fat-Cat Records)


Posted on Nov 5th 2009 01:17 am

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Max Richter: Memoryhouse

130701/Fat-Cat Records 2009
18 Tracks. 65mins04secs

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Max Richter spent his formative years studying music and composition in Edinburgh and at the Royal Academy of Music in London, then went on to form Piano Circus with five other pianists in the late eighties in order to perform Steve Reich’s Six Pianos. He stayed with the formation for ten years, working on pieces by composers such as Reich, Arvo Pärt, Philip Glass, Terry Riley or Michael Nyman, during which time he also collaborated with Garry Cobain and Brian Dougans of The Future Sound Of London for a number of years, notably contributing to the pair’s Dead Cities album in 1996, and The Isness in 2002.

Recorded with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and originally published on the BBC’s short-lived Late Junction imprint in 2002, Memoryhouse was the first of Richter’s records as a composer, and established the blueprint for his work to follow, blending often melancholic orchestral themes and piano solos, peppering them with discreet electronics and samples of conversations. The album has been out of print for some time, but Brighton-based Fat-Cat, which has been Richter’s home for over five years, is now making this collection available once again.

Right from the opening composition, Richter combines field recordings and distant voices with a lone piano and mournful violin, orchestral work and creates a beautiful cinematic setting, which is then developed through the whole record in a variety of forms. Richter often works with recurring melodic themes in a particular piece, played at various levels of intensity, so the minimal aspect of his work is countered by an impression of stratification. Applied indifferently to a single instrument of a full orchestra, this, not the use of field recordings, gives his music its particular melancholic nature, the latter, at times isolated into miniature interludes, only serve to accentuate or nuance the overall emotional élan of a piece. This is perhaps most apparent on the two solo piano compositions (The Twins (Prague) and Andras) but it also transpires particularly vividly on the string-led Maria The Poet (1913), November, Landscape With Figure (1922), Embers or the sweeping orchestral Last Days.

While this appears to be Richter’s primary stylistic expression, and one that’s been developed further on more recent works, it doesn’t drive the whole record. On Laika’s Journey, he strips his instrumentation bare, leaving only a treated piano to cast an ill-shadow over a sombre hum, and on Untitled (Figures), he sends electronic pulses through the main melody, while much later, on Fragment, a solitary violin draws an autumnal melody over a recording of rain falling.

Memoryhouse is particularly beautiful and surprisingly dense collection, and while it doesn’t explicitly follow a particular narrative, it is still bound together by the emotional scope of the compositions and their mise-en-scene. Richter has proved since that he has a flair for carving out particularly effective evocative compositions, and this re-edition show how he was already in full command of his art then.


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2 Responses to “MAX RICHTER: Memoryhouse (130701/Fat-Cat Records)”

  1. maedaon 14 Nov 2009 at 9:40 am

    Fat-Cat i thank you..

  2. […] Infra 3 for instance echoes similar earlier moments from The Blue Notebooks (Vladimir’s Blues) or Memoryhouse (The Twins, Andras), while the mournful Journey 5 or Infra 6 are underpinned by distant radio […]