When the hornet-angry mob protesting the labeling and categorization of music is formed you’ll most likely discover me near the front of the pack, face lit by the flame-licked torch in my furious hand. Yet, as stern as my convictions are on this topic I’m forced to admit that the classification of Harold Budd’s music is atomic clock precise. Ambient, by definition, means enveloping or all encompassing. There is no other single word that better describes the delicately moody piano musings of the Los Angeles-based composer.
Budd’s latest effort is a study in space. His dreamy creations conjure up seemingly limitless landscapes as vast and wondrous as those beyond our atmosphere; still, it’s not outer space he’s concerned with. It’s the inner spaces within the walls of The Room that he invites us to discover. His Atlantic debut and first recording in four years focuses on 13 thumbprint distinct rooms whose walls not only talk, they enchant.
Harold’s work is characterized by a dramatic subtlety that’s more about mood than melody. Uncomplicated and Sahara sparse, these 13 songs convey emotion and grace. The Room isn’t too dissimilar to a film score, incidental music for the reflective moment. It holds your attention without commanding it, allowing your mind to wander within the confines of the space it created.
Harold Budd has been recording for more than 25 years. If you’re unfamiliar with him, odds are you’ve heard of some of the artists he’s worked with: Brian Eno; Andy Partridge (XTC); Cocteau Twins and guitarist Bill Nelson. His 1980 album with Eno, The Plateaux of Mirrors, is considered one of the epic achievements within this genre.
If the combative gang I hinted at actually gathered to topple the predisposed notions of those who would dare to label a sound, this could be the music used to soothe them. Just don’t refer to it as background or New Age. They’ll pummel you for sure.