Max Richter Max RichterInfra
A neo-classic artist like Max Richter is most likely to find a lot of work in the field of soundtracks and musical decoration of various cultural events. It’s a very wide territory that could lead to a certain creative settlement, as it guarantees more income in the short term and enables one to make good use of public institutions, great coliseums and producers without too much effort, and of course quality control and good use of the artistic filter is the key to not ending up burnt-out while looking for a better and more or less stable salary. The German composer fits the profile of the man, wanted by many in this field, who has (understandably) sacrificed time and ideas for his solo work in order to guarantee himself a steady income by doing on demand jobs. But the difference between him and some of his peers who have chosen to live off the rent and/or suck from the institutional bottle is that the author of “The Blue Notebooks” maintains a steady output which lets him produce at high level, even when he also has to turn in work that is not as meaningful, like the record we’re talking about now.
In other words: “Infra” is nothing else but the musical accompaniment, which is at the same time very visual, with the usual evocative and cinematic ability of the German, of a ballet piece by choreographer Wayne McGregor, premiered at the end of 2008 at the London Royal Opera House. As in: the initial idea was short and very specific, namely create a specific musical fragment, a few minutes long, something simple and relatively easy. From there, and with a complete album in mind, Richter opted for making it longer, broadening it and extend that start, maintaining a good part of the texture and the modus operandi of the title piece until turning the project into an entire record that can serve as a new chapter in our protagonist’s oeuvre. As usually happens in the art world, a brief idea in its original format that is stretched and prolonged doesn’t suppose the best nor the most accurate way to present and start with a project, mainly because one has the impression that its creator will end up repeating resources, arguments and plots along the way. And, even though I’d say this is the only real problem with this album, in the end it becomes a defect that doesn’t alter nor minimises the emotional impact of its contents.
“Infra” is divided in two big central compositions, the title piece and the one belonging to the “Journey” series that unfold in various recreations of the two initial scores. They are variations cut short by a very similar pattern that, however, present explicit and enjoyable difference between them. Like on the soundtrack of “Waltz With Bashir” the same schemes were repeated time after time, with slight alterations, in a very classic soundtrack context that repeats the central motives of the scores, on “Infra” Richter feels free and authorised to experiment and move whichever way he wants. This way, an orchestral piece can reappear within minutes with only a distant piano, only for us to find it again after a while transfigured in radiophonic sounds and electronic arrangements. That’s the great attraction of this album, in the way its author has transformed an original order, who knows of how little interest to him, in an opportunity to experiment and play around with some of the keys of his discourse up to the point of creating a serious piece of work, epidermal and profound, with more ambitious aspirations than to simply serve as accompaniment to someone else’s work that doesn’t interest him in any way.
Without reaching the quotes of gravity, majesty and obsessive perfectionism of his magnus opus “Memoryhouse”, “The Blue Notebooks” and “Songs From Before”, more in line with the underestimated “24 Postcards In Full Colour”, a magnificent puzzle of try-outs, ideas and remnants, “Infra” is almost more interesting because of what its creator is telling and explaining to us than because of its contents. This being a small title, remarkable because of the prominent explosions of emotions and sonic beauty that he has in store for us along the road yet never exalted, in its complex turns we find a composer who resists stagnation and relaxation, who refuses to succumb to the moral blackmail of working on demand and who takes advantage of the orders he gets to pave the way for future (more personal and ambitious recordings), those where he puts in his all. Furthermore, the material presented here is not at all irrelevant and deserves to be acquired by the fan without thinking twice, as well as obviously being a summer thirst quencher for completists, it contributes a little more neon to the so far rather bland neo-classic crop of 2010.