Brian Eno is MORE DARK THAN SHARK
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Electronic Sound JUNE 2018 - by Ben Murphy

HAROLD BUDD: BUDD BOX

Avant-Garde Maestro Comes Up Trumps With Irresistible Boxset Of Vital Works

Though California's Harold Budd has insisted in the past that he is not an ambient musician, it would be difficult to disassociate him from a genre he's had such an influence upon. A pianist who specialised in avant-garde sound and minimal composition in his earliest 1960s works, his first proper album, 1976's The Pavilion Of Dreams, was produced by ambient avatar Brian Eno, and found Budd adding the jazz influences he'd absorbed while performing with artists such as Albert Ayler. As ambient music becomes increasingly popular and new fans delve into its history, the sleek Budd Box, comprising seven of his most essential albums and a lengthy book of interviews and analysis, is a timely overview of his work.

The earliest work here, 1981's The Serpent (In Quicksilver), is a kind of tribute to California's wide-open spaces (Budd grew up in the Mojave Desert). While Afar is all pedal steel guitar and mellow sunshine, the Prophet 5 synth tones and piano of Wanderer suggest a sense of desolation and irrevocable emptiness. Abandoned Cities, from 1984, contains the unsettling electronic drone of Dark Star, and as the album title hints, would make a suitable soundtrack for a deserted town ravaged by some Ballardian menace. The title track has a sense of sadness communicated by only a few piano notes, drifting in a miasma of synth tone.

What strikes you is how different all these albums are. Recorded in 1991, By The Dawn's Early Light contains several evocative poems spoken by Budd himself over subtle synth waves and, on Boy About 10, the accompaniment of majestic viola from Mabel Wong. From 1996, Luxa is composed of limpid piano pieces, and is perhaps the closest to true ambience out of this set, while 1992's Music For 3 Pianos with Ruben Garcia and Daniel Lentz is pitched someway between classical and jazz, and The White Arcades, from 1987, is a mystical excursion that is the most worthy of the new age tag that Budd has also rejected.

Beyond categorisation, Budd Box reveals his staggering originality, a musical box of discovery which will reward exploration.


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