M. RICHTER 24 Postcards in full colour 4793315

The album's unique format is admirable -- there's no reason why everyday sounds like ringtones can't be as thoughtfully made, and beautiful in their own way, as larger pieces of music -- especially because the same care that goes into Richter's longer works is evident throughout "24 Postcards in Full Colour" . . . This may be Richter's shortest album, but it's also his most eclectic and emotional work, a mosaic of brief but beautiful wishes for contact and a powerfully inspiring way of making what could be mundane into something artful, even if it's just for a moment.

To enjoy this album, you needn't share Richter's appetite to reclaim the ringtone as a potential medium for good music -- it's a pretty spectacular standalone listen too. Absolutely key to Richter's music is that he's not strictly a composer, but a producer as well, and it's the finesse with which he conducts himself in this department that truly defines "24 Postcards". As beautiful and as richly woven as these brief pieces are, it's the variety of recording styles and the interchange from track to track that makes the album as instantly memorable and evocative as it is. From the worn-out surface noise and melodic haze that presides over pieces like "The Road Is A Grey Tape" or the glistening "Cascade NW By W" there's a lot more to this than the familiar repertoire of strings and piano. Of course, these aspects of Richter's work are in terrific working order too: you'll find cinematic piano vignettes like "Circles From The Rue Simon -- Crubellier", and on "Return To Prague", what sounds like a fragmentary, degraded AM radio broadcast of some obscure symphony. These tantalisingly curtailed compositions give the sense that they're merely sketches or impressions of some grander work that Richter's concealing from us; indeed, the air of mystery and allure that comes from these perfectly formed recordings is probably more powerful than any conventional album Richter could have delivered. Essential Purchase.

. . . he makes art music with broad appeal . . . If you want a ringtone that could stop everyone else in the produce aisle in his or her tracks with its beauty, this is for you. The main musical aim here appears to be tonal variety. Richter places a minute of burbling, crackling ambient noise next to a painfully gorgeous minute of violins slipping in and out of harmony, or an arpeggiating electric guitar smothered in voices. The piano pieces are soft, contemplative, and a bit chilly -- they make me think of wearing a sweater while reading a thoughtfully written book by the light of a single lamp in an otherwise dark home. Autumnal is a word I occasionally see used to describe the feel of Richter's work, and it certainly applies here. These pieces are falling leaves and brisk breezes embodied in bow strokes, keystrokes, and electronic textures . . . this is a frequently haunting album . . .

Somewhat surprisingly, these snapshots hardly need to gel, so powerful is almost every one of them as a discrete entity. The idea of the titular postcard becomes a fitting analogy on the echoing "A Sudden Manhattan of the Mind" and the sun-soaked "A Song for H/Far Away". Similarly, tracks like "Return to Prague" and the delicate, spare "Berlin by Overnight" succinctly score vast expanses as only truly great film music really can. And while experimental textures abound throughout on pieces like "Kierling/Doubt", Richter allows his melodies to shine time and again, making for an album that's often every bit as playful as it is emotionally taut . . . Far from being a bother, these 24 pieces flit by as if on sacred air, offering brief moments of sanctuary that seem designed not for disposable use and bothersome alarm, but for endless loops and uninterrupted playback. Indeed, if the pieces contained on "24 Postcards in Full Colour" came pre-loaded on every cell phone purchased, most incoming calls would go unanswered, for fear of interrupting Max Richter's beautiful tones.