Max Richter – Sleep...

Apple’s iTunes has often been cited as a contributing factor to the death of the traditional album – the advent of mp3 technology and iTunes in particular, gave consumers the ability to cherry pick tracks and created the ‘shuffle’ generation. As a by-product of this, our collective attention span when it comes to music seems to have taken a nosedive – if those thirty second audio clips don’t reel us in, it’s a case of ‘next please’ and we have wandered somewhere else. How richly ironic then that ambient classical composer Max Richter presents the full length version of his latest album to the world exclusively through iTunes, a mammoth, eight hour excursion into the world of sleep, designed to be an aid to, and an enhancement of, an experience that takes up just under a third of our lives. The irony is compounded by the fact that Richter operates in a genre where patience is a pre-requisite for listeners – ambient classical music is completely devoid of instant thrills, the antithesis of the iTunes generation. Richter has been at the vanguard of the ambient/classical  movement and with Sleep, he has created his most challenging but arguably his most rewarding work to date. It’s hard to establish just how serious Richter is when he invites listeners to press play and drift off to this 31 track recording, that flows seamlessly from one piece to the next – to do so reduces it to nothing more than some bog standard, slight and inconsequential piece of New Age fluff – it is anything but that. There is too much beauty here in Richter’s delicate piano pieces, adorned by sombre strings and a melancholic serenity that takes the breath away.  ‘Dream 1 (before the wind blows it all away)’ is based...