The Best Album You’ll Never Hear



If you think that minimalism is a sort of modern classical version of roadworks, you’re sometimes right. There are composers and bands like those of Steve Reich, Wim Mertens, Sigur Ros and Michael Nyman who can turn these strange repetitive loops into the music of the urban 21st century, and others like Popul Vuh and Terry Riley who create meditative states from repeated harmonies.

Max Richter shares elements of all of the above, crossing into dreamspaces between soundtracks, modern classical and an almost pop sensibility. I’d been a fan since his mournful score for the stunning ‘Waltz With Bashir’, but when I heard about his sleep project, developed with advice from neuroscientists, I was especially intrigued.

The brief was to create a piece of music that would be heard between the states of sleep and wakefulness, a form of lucid dreaming. The resulting soundscape ‘Sleep’ is certainly more than just a snooze-aid; there’s a touch of Arvo Pärt, a bit of Sigur Ros and the odd smidgen of Terry Riley but this is very much Richter’s own beast, now issued in an incredible eight-hour cut.

In the urbanised west we are now sleepless people, constantly searching for ways to calm ourselves, and this is where ‘Sleep’ comes in – it’s a brilliant relaxer, but when you stop and listen for a while it also works as a superb audio experience. As a chronically sleepless person and tinnitus sufferer, I love the whole eight hour piece.

Here’s Richter to explain why he wrote it. Goodnight.

2 comments on “The Best Album You’ll Never Hear”

  1. Jo W says:

    Night night. Sleep tight.

  2. Peter Dixon says:

    Eight hours? Crikey!

    Brian Eno did lots of this kind of stuff in the 80’s – Atmospheres and Soundtracks and Apollo Soundtracks are goodies – the Apollo stuff was based round the fact that most of there Apollo astronauts listened to C&W music so Eno made long, etiolated and subtle tracks based on Country and Western themes and instruments without any vocals. His ‘Discrete Music’ influenced David Bowie among scallions of others.
    Talking of long tracks, Eno has also produced a piece of computer generated artwork / projections that, once started, will run for 1,000 years without repetition.

    As the truly inimitable Ian Dury said; ‘There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards’….Oi, oi!

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