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Sunday, 1 August 2010

SubVersion Stop 102: Max Richter - Infra (130701)

A string is like an arrow to the heart – it can either puncture the spirit or carry with it magical emotive absorbtion. Whether in a quartet, quintet or cameo instrument, its sound can alleviate, act as a sobering slap to overcast mood, or cut through the murk of occult settings. Think chamber music for a context where the string makes everything humane, then paradoxically alien if manipulated in the right scale. Or consider disco for inclusivity of strings that race on their own idiosyncratic merits; sometimes painting textures of indeterminable origin; at others a cornerstone that respects past as much as present.

It’s an open book that cross-pollination of the string can be threatening – control and aspirations thwarted by simple but nonetheless aggravating formalities, whereby strings and film is not a relationship with zero elasticity. From Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western scores to Thomas Newman’s “Any Other Name”, where piano and string temper each other like childhood sweethearts, string effects have developed countless harmonic bargaining.

Max Richter is a composer with an ear for a dime a dozen in this sense. His latest opus, “Infra”, intended as the soundtrack to a ballet at The Royal Opera House in London, sheds verbose conceptual baggage and is realised as a standalone album, one that, if you listen right, works as an appetiser to nimble steps that extend beyond choreographed dance, and into your own world of routines, chores, highs and lows.

“The Blue Notebooks”, Richter’s most acclaimed release, was all about soaring instrumental cadences and polished musical explanations. “Infra”, forgetting its earlier industrial life, represents an offroad abode where the dulcet (strings, fuzzy piano) and intriguing (interlude electronics, several tracks titled “Journey”) hold hands, and are as charming as an unkempt box of photos dusted off, and given fresh existence on your mantlepiece.

Purchase: vinyl / CD / digital

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