Release Date: Sep 4, 2015
Record label: DG Deutsche Grammophon
Max Richer has written a piece of music, at eight hours long in entirety, that’s his first truly minimal piece. It’s minimal in the way that Steve Reich’s ‘It’s Gonna Rain’ dissipates into an abstract wash of sound, or Franciso López literally makes silence shocking by preceding it with 20 minutes of soft white noise. Let eight hours of Sleep permeate your consciousness and slowly turn your day into a melancholy masterpiece.
Max Richter’s new creation looms over us as the eight-hour download, Sleep. One imagines it will eventually become a shelf-threatening box set but, for now, highlights release From Sleep suffices for the physical edition. Sleep is a “lullaby”, designed to be listened to in repose, and beds are to be wheeled in for its overnight live premiere, in Berlin, this coming autumn.
It is hard to know what to make of Sleep, the new eight-hour album and therapeutic project from the perennially audacious British composer Max Richter. On one hand, the purpose is simple: Richter intends for the listener to press "play" on the full-length digital version, nod off to sleep somewhere between the patient piano chords of "Dream 1" and the vocal-and-organ ululations of "Path 3," and re-emerge after eight hours of music to a gentle crescendo of stretching strings, wordless harmonies, and long-tone bass near the close of "Dream 0". By consulting with famed neuroscientist and past collaborator David Eagleman, Richter has created a slow-motion, electronics-and-chamber-ensemble hybrid meant to reinforce and reflect natural sleep cycles.
Is classical the new ambient? It seems that way, as the likes of Hauschka and acts from the Erased Tapes stable (Nils Frahm, Olafur Arnalds and co) continue to use orchestral palettes for long-form textual music that can work magic in post-club collapse situations.And now, here comes renowned composer Max Richter, with an eight-hour piece of music (although there's a condensed one-hour version, too) which was designed for listening to while sleeping.Despite its length, it's not pushing any boundaries: it's smooth and sweet, with nothing to give you nightmares, but as a piece of high-class chillout music, it works very well. It will save you a lot of time building playlists, too. .
Sleep can be too much of a disconnection. We need to switch off, recuperate and regenerate ourselves for hours at a time, yet it feels like a bit of a gamble sometimes. If I go to sleep, will the world still be here when I awake? Will I still be here when I awake? What if I don't wake? Maybe better to keep going, shovel your mouth and brain full of artificial stimulants in order to maintain the constant bustle and agitation that 21st century lifeblood feeds on.
Whatever walk of life you find yourself in, every now and then, a proverbial ‘curve ball’ (excuse the Americanism) comes your way and for me, the chance to review an eight-hour long concept album by my favorite composer – British-born but Berlin-based Max Richter - was one such chance I couldn’t refuse, albeit somewhat far from the norm. The aptly titled SLEEP is the latest offering from one of the classical world’s modern maestros and no lesser than expected, it is nothing short of a masterpiece. Intended to send the listener to sleep and replicate a full night’s sleep, I can fully vouch for its success with that intention – having to listen to it at least 10 times before doing so succesfully without falling asleep mid-task.