Memoryhouse may be Max Richter's debut album, but he had been developing his unique mix of contemporary classical and electronics for years before it was released. He co-founded the Piano Circus ensemble, who commissioned and performed works by Arvo Pärt, Brian Eno, Philip Glass, and Steve Reich (all of whom were influential on Richter's own music), and used live sampling. He also collaborated with Roni Size and Future Sound of London on their groundbreaking 1996 album Dead Cities. Yet Memoryhouse, which is performed by the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor Rumon Gumba, doesn't feel derivative of any of Richter's previous projects; the album's pieces are rigorously composed but also highly emotive, seamlessly blending into a whole that feels like, well, a memory. Tracks such as "Europe, After the Rain" and "Maria, the Poet" exemplify the album's mix of Glass-style minimalism fused with evocative samples and field recordings, territory Richter covered even more brilliantly on his next album, The Blue Notebooks. The main melody on "Europe, After the Rain" surfaces here and there on Memoryhouse, taking different forms like "Untitled (Figures)"' delicate electronics and "Garden (1973)/Interior"'s drifting harpsichords and spoken word. "Sarajevo" and "The Twins (Prague)" underscore the album's Eastern European leanings, while pieces with short but descriptive song titles like "Landscape with Figure (1922)" and "Arbenita (11 years)" add to the feeling that they could soundtrack diary entries or captions on old photos. More dramatic tracks such as "Last Days" complement the intimacy of "Embers" and "Andras" nicely, and show the scope of Richter's abilities. An homage to Europe and the haunting power of memories, Memoryhouse is a stunning first album that announced Max Richter as a major talent.
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares
|Memoryhouse, for soloists, ensembles & orchestra|