A postcard tries to capture the essence of a place to send to someone who has not been there, both through picture and message. Max Richter's musical equivalents are equally distilled, and like postcards, they are short (the whole album lasts just over half an hour), and they can be restless and imaginative or quirky and poignant. Richter states that he took inspiration from ringtones, those brief, intrusive, personal into private sounds of mobile phones. Only Richter's pieces aren't invasive or irritating, instead the postcards seem not to have been sent from real places, but some sort of dream world. Not a Lynchian nightmarish world, which is uncannily disturbing, but a childlike, imaginative world, where sumptuous and evocative imagery exists to intrigue and bewilder.
Images emerge for that brief moment like the way a postcard evokes a certain memory, but is always slightly different on each listen. `A Sudden Manhattan of the Mind' has an underlying beat, which is slightly disquieting, but contains the thrill, the movement, the energy of urban life and the pulse of the city.
Richter was taught by the renowned composer, Luciano Berio and the influence is perhaps more apparent here than on any of Richter's previous albums. Listening to Berio's solo piano works, there is that same sense of tension and unpredictability that makes everything remarkably fragile and fleeting. Though Berio's pieces are far more manic and dissonant, whereas Richter has a love of melody and the whole album is soaked with a quiet beauty.
His work has always been full of sadness (`On the Nature of Daylight' from The Blue Notebooks is one of the most beautiful melancholic pieces I've heard) and this is no exception. Most of the pieces here are played on either piano or violin with particularly sombre melodies. The effect can be spellbinding as it captures that fleeting moment, that moment of beauty, which every now and again creeps up on you and you lose sense of what's going on around you as everything becomes one. `In Louisville 7' combines spoken word, found sounds and underlying gentle strings to accompany the piano playing and evoke a kind of `wish you were here' sentimentality and feeling of longing - trying to say share with me this beauty, this timeless moment.
Elsewhere on the album, Richter makes thorough use of ambient (`The Road is a Grey Tape'), minimalism (`Berlin By Overnight', which has very definite Philip Glass elements to it) and drone (`Kierling/Doubt') to craft his sound pieces. There is a similar formula throughout, as strong melodies often lie on top of fragmented, fractured field recordings and other electronic glitches as though these were akin to the picture and the melody was akin to the message on the back of the postcard. And like a good postcard, Richter's pieces really leave the listener wanting to know more. They are tasters, glimpses into another world and treasured memories.