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


Posted on Jul 1st 2010 01:36 am

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Max Richter: Infra

130701/Fat-Cat Records 2010
13 Tracks. 40mins39secs

Amazon UK: CD | LP | DLD US: CD | LP | DLD Boomkat: CD | LP

Max Richter has become very much in demand these days, with a number of increasingly high-profile projects under his belt, from soundtrack work, his score for Ari Forman’s animated memoire Waltz With Bashir earned him a European Film Award for best composer in 2008, to art installations. One such commission came from English modern dance choreographer Wayne McGregor, who enlisted Richter to provide the score for Infra, a ballet inspired by T.S. Elliot’s poem The Waste Land, and a collaboration between McGregor, Richter and Welsh visual artist Julian Opie, which premiered at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London at the end of 2008. The performance, and work around it, was also the subject of a documentary broadcast on BBC 2 that same year.

Presented here in expanded form, with the original eight compositions created for Infra intertwined with an additional five pieces inspired, as their titles suggest, by the notion of journey, this record is typical of Richter’s work; beautifully written piano and string sections, atmospheric electronic touches, at once understated and epic, harrowingly emotional and melancholic themes. Richter’s strong narrative sense undoubtedly serves the purpose of story-telling through dance, but without the visual aspect of the work, his music remains as evocative and poignant as ever. The sweeping Nyman-esque piano solo of 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 interferences and, on the latter, voices.

The more orchestral moments appear to take on a particular dimension here. The lead violin on Infra 4 floats very lightly over a recurring cello line in the backdrop, and even later on, when the rest of the string quintet provides a stronger backdrop, it is still the first violin that captivates. Equally, the contemplative nature of pieces such as Journey 4, Infra 5 or Infra 7 is gracefully accentuated by delicate brushes of string work, whilst Infra 8, which concludes, opens with a lone violin, then slowly builds into a particularly refined piece as more layers are added. What is especially stunning in this composition is the way both melody and orchestration continuously ebb and flow through the entire piece. This is perhaps one of Richter’s strongest compositions in a long while.

While the two trends of this record are not immediately related, they are woven into each other and actually work very well together. To bind these further, they are often mixed into one another to create the impression of a seamless flow. Richter’s use of electronics is here more discreet than on previous works, but on Infra 2, Journey 2, 3 or 5, he places distortions, interferences and dense electronic textures at the fore and creates interesting shaded zones where the certainty of the acoustic instruments is shaken to its very foundation. Infra was never conceived as a standalone record, yet it actually works quite beautifully as such and is a worthy addition to Richter’s catalogue.


Max Richter | Max Richter (MySpace) | Fat-Cat Records
Amazon UK: CD | LP | DLD US: CD | LP | DLD Boomkat: CD | LP

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