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Max Richter
Infra Meryl Trussler , July 28th, 2010 12:48

Max Richter's own brand of neoclassicism evolves out of ambience. Ambience is the spawn. On previous albums we've heard the usual staples of poetry and rain; this album grows out of a steady, bubbling beep and fuzz. Perhaps a dystopia shared with the woebegone little machinations of Johann Johannsson's IBM 1401, A User's Manual. Similar to the IBMs, the Infra robot-children seem to stagger up onto tiny aluminium feet and begin to grasp emotion. They play the saddest chords. They play licks of sombre violin. Then they go barrelling up the learning curve until they have scientifically determined The Saddest Song. This is Richter's forte; this is Richter's pianoforte on ‘Infra 3' that is so ruthlessly emotive it could be used as a sonic weapon. If there is a conclusion to this Philip K Dickness it is that the robots will conquer us soon, and they will use these songs to make us crumble.

It's no sweat for Max Richter. One almost wonders how he keeps his superpowers in check in day to day life. When he looks at clocks, do they melt into Dalis? When he goes to take a piss, will a public bathroom turn into a Lars Von Trier tragedy? One has to wonder. There's a clever little optical illusion included on 2002's memoryhouse, being that if you listen once to ‘November' then look at yourself in the mirror you appear to be a complete stranger. No kidding. It is heavy, heavy shit.

It is a compliment and not a criticism to note that much of Richter's work has similar elements: zigzagging, interlocking strings, desolate & ponderous piano, and an inimitable sense of crescendo. As such, Infra proceeds naturally from his former releases, with its brightest moments (such as ‘Infra 5') feeling much like a ‘November' that has been tweaked and tortured into a different assembly of the same parts. Pitiful, beautiful Transformers, if you can imagine it. That musical Midas-touch that would turn Shia LaBoeuf into River Phoenix, with a single tear on his cheek.

If there's any justice in this world, and Philip Glass is allowed to pass the torch of gorgeous filmscores, it could well happen. Buy your popcorn; gird your heartstrings.