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Harold Budd - Avalon Sutra / As Long As I Can Hold My Breath CD (album) cover


Harold Budd


Progressive Electronic

2.53 | 13 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars Avalon Sutra is Harold Budd's second chamber music album, and is very similar in composition to She is a Phantom but has more lush instrumentation and seems a bit more thought out overall.

Avalon Sutra, though being dominated by impressionistic acoustic string instruments and piano, also has an increased aura of ethereal ambience that She is a Phantom did not quite have so much of. The composition style also is slightly more straight forward throughout, with an absence of the weird (albeit interesting) RIO-type compositions that echoed Univers Zero. The tone of this album is similarly downtrodden and moody, comparable to the previous album La Bella Vista except with larger instrumentation and somewhat of an aquatic or earthly vibe.

The album in its entirety is very beautiful in quite an emotionally affecting way, which is something that Harold Budd is usually good at but the varied instrumentation makes everything more compelling and atmospheric than simply an ambient piano-based album. That being said, no individual track really sticks out to me, which is something that he often has a problem with. Not to say that every song on an album such as this one requires catchy hooks or anything, but every song tends to sound nearly the same as the last except with a cello phrase switched out with flute phrase, or a violin phrase switched with a cello phrase, etc. If given utmost attention, then I'm sure every track sticks out in its own way, but it shouldn't need to be this difficult. But, again, this is very beautiful and ethereal chamber music, so Avalon Sutra has that going for it at least.

The big (and only) standout composition however is the entire second disc, which is a track called "As Long as I Can Hold My Breath (By Night)" that is almost 70 minutes long. For its entire duration it explores a single, short, minimalist motif played on strings while other elements come and go from and into the distance, giving off a vibe similar to M. Feldman's Piano and String Quartet except much less morose. Again, the light airy ambience is in full effect that makes this small chamber music type composition sound almost faux-symphonic. Indeed, for 70 minutes this track can become tiring, but it actually being centered on obvious repetition is more interesting and easier to follow than a disc of different compositions that all sound the same based on accident -- it seems more appropriate and less embarrassing this way.

Because Avalon Sutra is two discs, one being boring and the other somewhat interesting, it's hard for me to want to recommend this album to anyone. In comparison, I'd say this album is similar to The Pavilion of Dreams and the aforementioned She is a Phantom, though this is more straight forward, predictable, and entirely void of jazz influence. This could be a great album to aid in relaxation, but mostly it is incapable of garnering any interest during its entire 115-minute duration. Heavenly, yes, but increasingly tedious as the minutes wear on.

colorofmoney91 | 2/5 |


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