Harold Budd has come a long way since his seminal collaborations with Briano Eno (The Plateau of Mirror and The Pearl, the latter also including Daniel Lanois). Of course, since he’s a proponent of starkly minimal ambient, that’s another way of saying he hasn’t changed much at all. His newest work, a seventy-five minute album with Clive Wright from Cock Robin (of all places), would test your patience if it ever called that much attention to itself. It opens with the half-hour and change of “Pensive Aphrodite”, great glacial drifts of beauty piled up beneath Wright’s guitar (flaring intermittently like a more polite Fripp circa No Pussyfooting).
The problem, though, is that Budd works in (and largely invented, let’s not forget) a genre where a certain kind of restrained beauty isn’t a goal so much as an entrance requirement, and “Pensive Aphrodite” doesn’t do much more than fulfill it. It’s pleasurable, perhaps useful, but in the same way as a million other neo-ambient excursions. The shorter tracks here tend to work better, whether it’s the title track which hosts a poetry reading, the restrained cymbal(?) hiss throughout “Of Many Mirrors,” the almost voices curling through “The Saint of Whispers” or even just Budd’s piano acting up a bit on the closing “Blind Flowers”. Lovely, impressive in its monolithic bulk, but for serious fans of the genre or composer only.
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