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Harold Budd - Abandoned Cities CD (album) cover


Harold Budd

Progressive Electronic

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4 stars Following two minimalist and beautiful collaboration albums that are just short of being entirely boring, Harold Budd mostly loses the piano and instead opts for dense, dark, and murky long-form post-Berlin school electronic ambient tracks.

Gone are the electronic/acoustic piano impressionistic melodies that lead to nowhere, and gone are the aimless short-form compositions -- Abandoned Cities is an entirely different monster that looms over the listener like a post-apocalyptic dirge to psychological nothingness. I absolutely love when the overall mood and sound of an album is perfectly summed up within the album title, which is what this album has accomplished. This is a soundtrack to apprehensively walking from town to town and city to city only to observe that every area reached has long been entirely evacuated and the most lively entities in sight are the dark grey clouds that hang overhead like a blanket that appropriately colors the landscape in question with an ominous absence of light. In other words, this is kind of like a soundtrack to Silent Hill or Resident Evil games, minus the presence of the undead. Most similar to the scene in 28 Days Later where Cillian Murphy is walking through a mostly deserted London.

As far as significant progression goes, there isn't any on this album. Both tracks run at around 20 minutes, give or take, and are both sufficiently unhappy. "Darkstar" is dependent on a constant but subtly changing rumbling groan while powerful bursts of synth smash through and resonate for a few bars each, and a slightly hopeful wall of shimmering ambience occasionally fills the background, but the atmosphere never rises above being entirely unsettling. The title track is less heavy while maintaining the ominous synth dirge quality and is accompanied by very sparse use of texturally appropriate out-of-tune piano that sounds very lonely among the suffocating grey ambience surrounding it.

Even compared to Harold Budd's slow minimalist piano albums and his jazz- influenced debut, Abandoned Cities is such a slow moving album -- so slow, in fact, that I'm sure most people who are not too much into ambient will get sick of it after the first 3 minutes of each track, considering that each track is basically the same melody and atmosphere repeated for about 20 minutes with only subtle background element changes to add tension to the overall composition. However, fans of ambient music or music that generally makes you want to cry and bask in loneliness (whether it be real or imagined) will find much to enjoy (?) about this album. Abandoned Cities is for sure one of Harold Budd's most emotionally satisfying works.

Report this review (#643680)
Posted Thursday, March 1, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars Of the Harold Budd releases and collaborations I've heard, I think Abandoned Cities constitutes the most unusual and uncharacteristic. Consisting of two side-long dark ambient soundscapes, Budd's minimalistic piano playing is more or less entirely absent from the album, leaving in its place a haunting electronic evocation of total desolation. At points, its slow, ponderous rumbles border on full-on drone territory. It compares favourably to similarly glacial predecessors such as Tangerine Dream's Zeit, and may be an eye-opening experience for any listener who only knows Harold Budd as that guy who collaborated with Brian Eno and the Cocteau Twins and plays a real purty piano.
Report this review (#1594641)
Posted Thursday, August 4, 2016 | Review Permalink

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