Max Richter – Voices – Album Review
Five years after his innovative composition Sleep which came as a salve on frayed nerves that refuse to allow any rest, extraordinary composer and musician Max Richter returns with his ninth studio album Voices addressing the theme of unrest in an entirely new and different way.
Combining his prodigious penchant for moody symphonies and his career-long goal of using music as a form of activism, Voices is a message of hope and unity during a time the world needs it most. Bringing varied voices together from crowd-sourced readings of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the album is the celestial meeting pointing of people long dead, yet to be born and those who currently walk the Earth, swirling and bleeding into each other in a picture-perfect dream of togetherness.
Voices opens with a scratchy recording of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt reading the Preamble to the UDHR — and it’s clear the album intends to hit the sore spots of the world we currently live in; one that exists in suspension and shifts from one crisis to another, with lives lost to brutal, unfair murders and more lost to a ruthless pandemic.
The lead single ‘All Human Beings’ impresses with its brilliant production and efforts at unity, standing as another example of inspirational words that now ironically bear significance for how insignificant they have become. The track with Richter narrating the foundation of the UDHR: The opening words of the declaration, drafted in 1948, are ‘All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.’ These words are meaningful, yet they give you pause when you consider the state of the world.
Richter weaves an element into almost every single track of the album, which impresses for its sonics throughout. A pleasant soundscape fills the expert touches of Richter’s ‘upside-down’ orchestra — of 12 double basses, 24 cellos, 6 violas,8 violins and a harp — pulls together 70 voices with an effortlessness that belies the decade of prep that went into the album.
Actress KiKi Layne also lends her voice for a reading of the declaration as Richter makes use of micro-movements, bringing everything from arpeggios and drones to beautifully alternating low and dense string arrangements, as well as set moods specific to each track.
On track ‘Journey Piece’, a combination of the sweet lilt of birdsong with the anxious buzz of drones fighting, adds for further impact as the declaration is read in different languages; while on ‘Chorale’, voices from the Middle East swirl amidst Richter’s expansive string arrangement broken by sharp notes.
Celestial soaring vocals blend with heavy beats just as the bleak tone of ‘Murmuration’ sets off the cautiously optimistic messaging of ‘Little Requiems – Pt. 2’.
This hope is then carried forward on the meditative stylings of ‘Mercy’ — one of the only tracks on the album that doesn’t sample the declaration. Inviting the world to take a break from pondering the death, destruction and loss of life that remains rampant in the world, Richter echoes the slow tranquility of his Sleep collection on this final track, rounding out a journey of 20 irreplaceable tracks.
With Voices, Richter has crafted a musical landscape that allows several hearts to beat and bleed in unison. Overall, this sonically challenging yet perfect collection of tracks is one step closer to Richter’s life goal of saving the world, one song at a time; though at the end of it all, 20 tracks do not undo the past, remedy the tumultuous present, or so much reveal the unwritten future.
While it resonates with the depth of Richter’s sincerity and the truth of the 70 voices behind it, having scratched the surface of the human race — it’s not an end to even a fraction of the world’s problems.
Although, at least, it’s a step somewhere.
Check out Max Richter’s album Voices below!