The music from Richter 858 was originally commissioned and recorded to accompany a book of paintings by Gerhard Richter, which was only available in limited quantities back in 2002. Tony Reif of Songlines decided to rescue the recordings from obscurity, and re-released them in early 2005. The band is Frisell on guitar and delay, Eyvind Kang on viola, Jenny Scheinman on violin, and Frisell's old bandmate Hank Roberts on cello. The pieces were directly inspired by a specific painting, and recorded live to two-track with no editing or overdubs. In the booklet are thoughts and guidelines given to Frisell by producer David Breskin and an interview on the subject with Frisell, and they shed a great deal of light on the process of how this music was created. Since art is, of course, a subjective thing, you may or may not feel that the music directly relates to the paintings, but there's no denying that this is a fascinating project. The majority of the songs are built on simple repeated figures, and the players all seem free to embellish and improvise on top of that. Frisell's delays play a major role in this music (Breskin points out that Richter's technique of applying a squeegee to wet oil paint is analogous to Frisell "smearing" notes by manipulating his delay), and the way he uses the delayed guitar signal to complement, and in some cases mimic, the strings is quite amazing (remember, this was done live with no editing). It's been years since Frisell has made such extensive use of the delay, but he's still an absolute master. There is also a minimalist quality to the pieces, but the interplay between guitar, delay and strings keeps them from becoming static. Most of this album is quite serene and beautiful, although there are a couple of hairier moments. The paintings themselves are also reproduced in the booklet, and also as enhanced content on the disc itself, which is encoded for Super Audio playback. This is a very interesting new sound for Bill Frisell, and apparently this band is developing more music together outside the scope of the original project. Recommended.
AllMusic Review by Sean Westergaard