Max Richter
The Blue Notebooks CD

Classical and electronic music don't team up well. Says who? Certainly not Max Richter who feels perfectly comfortable in both fields, as can be witnessed on his latest album "The Blue Notebooks".

German expatriate Max Richter, living in England since his childhood, has studied music at Edinburgh University and the Royal Academy of Music. While he has been performing pieces by modern composers such as Philip Glass and Steve Reich with his ensemble Piano Circus over the years, he has also been influenced by Kraftwerk and Can from his teenage years on.

So what is the outcome of Max' Janus-faced attachment? Well, his collaboration with protagonists from the electronic music scene for starters: Max has been deeply involved in the conception and recording of Future Sound of London's albums "Dead Cities" and "The Isness".

For his second solo album "The Blue Notebooks" however Max has adopted an interdisciplinary approach and looked towards the world of European literature. The album title is derived from a little known collection of aphorisms and small pieces by Czech writer Franz Kafka, the so called "Blue Octavo Notebooks", which have been posthumously published by Kafka's close friend Max Brod.

Now, Kafka's work is not exactly known as light and heartwarming. A stark portrayal of man's hopeless struggle against an overwhelming power (in many cases embodied by bureaucratic authorities) and the feeling of being alienated from the rest of mankind characterize his works which proved to be hugely influential on European and American literature (reading "The Trial" is recommended at this point).

Max Richter has obviously picked up on the emotional quality of Kafka's work, "The Blue Notebooks" is a collection of eleven melancholic pieces, some of them played on the piano, some borne by synthesizer sounds. Spoken word interludes link some of the passages: actress Tilda Swinton, who has in the past collaborated with Derek Jarman, reads fragments from works by Kafka and Polish writer Czseslaw Milosz, accompanied by the clatter of an old mechanical typewriting machine.

With "The Blue Notebooks" Max Richter has definitely achieved to capture feelings of loneliness and alienation, it's a slow-paced and slightly depressing work involving natural and synthetic sounds, but overall leaned far more towards the classical side of Max' oeuvre.

(rh 05/MMIV)

Label: 130701/Fat Cat
>> Max Richter's personal website

Conjuring Franz Kafka's spirit