CD review: Max Richter’s From Sleep

First published in the Guardian on 28 August, 2015

Max Richter: from Sleep
Richter/American Contemporary Music Ensemble

On one level Max Richter’s latest album is straight-up ambient post-minimalism, all hushed, precious moodiness, but there’s concept behind the mellow loops and drones and wordless floaty vocals. A decent night’s sleep last for eight hours; Richter’s epic durational work Sleep clocks in at the same. The German-British composer calls it both a “personal lullaby for a frenetic world” and a “very deliberate political statement” on the way we engage on with our sonic environment. He wants to know how our brains deal with music while we dream: it is neurological research by incredibly low-key stealth. The full version is intended to actually send us to sleep, but ‘from Sleep’ is a one-hour offshoot during which we’re supposed to stay awake. Richter plays piano, organ, synths and low-thrumming electronics; the American Contemporary Music Ensemble adds soft-hewn vocals and violins. It’s a warm, slow-moving daydream with no sharp edges and a self-consciously hazy sound, as if recorded next door or underwater.