24 Postcards in Full Colour
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The acclaim Max Richter has earned for works like The Blue Notebooks hasn't tempted him to outdo himself with ever more elaborate, grandiose projects — in fact, 24 Postcards in Full Colour is just the opposite: a collection of pieces intended as ringtones, the album's longest track is a petite two-minutes-and-fifty-some seconds, and its palette is restricted to solo piano, string quartet, acoustic guitar, and less obvious sources such as shortwave radio transmissions and transistors. 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. Many of the electronic pieces offer snapshots of the world around us: "Tokyo Riddle Song" and "When the Northern Lights/Jasper and Louise" sound like messages from chattering satellites that have been bouncing around the atmosphere, while "The Road Is a Grey Tape" could pass for a duet between rushing wind and a purring engine. The string and piano-based pieces, meanwhile, offer interior glimpses; "This Picture of Us P."'s contemplative melody stirs up more emotions in its 90 seconds that might be thought possible, while "Berlin by Overnight"'s strings are impatient to get to their destination. These worlds come together on "A Sudden Manhattan of the Mind," which is as bustling as it is poignant, and "A Song for H Far Away," which blends guitar, cello, and bad cell phone reception into something transporting. 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.
Born: March 22, 1966 in Germany
Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s