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THE ROOM

Harold Budd

Progressive Electronic


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Neu!mann
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Harold Budd's year 2000 solo album is miles away from the sort of aural wallpaper usually associated with ambient instrumental music. Each of the dozen short pieces here describes a different interior landscape: "The Room of Stairs", "The Room of Mirrors", "The Room of Corners" and so forth, with a thirteenth performance simply titled "The Room" (you'll have to furnish it to your own taste).

Sometimes the titles are more evocative than the music itself ("The Room of Forgotten Children"), but each space is constructed from a similar blueprint of intuitive keyboard improvisations, usually treated with a shimmering aura of atmospheric electronics. The results span from the beautiful ("The Room of Oracles") to the banal ("The Flowered Room", leaning uncomfortably close to New Age muzak), with the best selections featuring the composer alone at his acoustic piano (in "The Room Obscured", and elsewhere).

Harold Budd has always been a champion of minimalism, not unlike his occasional collaborator and kindred spirit Brian Eno. But for an artist of such obvious taste and sensitivity minimal doesn't mean simplistic, and there's more depth to these fragmentary sketches than first meets the ear. Notice the subtle current of unease beneath the otherwise peaceful chords of "The Room of Ancillary Dreams", or the unspoken drama of the title track.

That trademark sense of space and distance is no doubt a reflection of Budd's upbringing in the Mojave Desert of Southern California. If Erik Satie had grown up in Barstow instead of 19th century Paris, his "Trois Gnossiennes" might have sounded a lot like this. Thematically the music is bound by the four walls of each imaginary room. But in truth the album provides an ideal background for contemplating empty skies and distant horizons.

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Send comments to Neu!mann (BETA) | Report this review (#603532)
Posted Thursday, January 05, 2012 | Review Permalink
3 stars You always know what to expect with a Harold Budd recording and this is no different, just a tad duller and with very few electronics in the background. Budd to me, is the modern day Erik Satie. The pair of them would have got on like a house on fire.

The origins of 'The Room' lie within a track on the pretty cool 'White Arcades' album from '88.

'The Room' is a very pretty, non cheesy ambient recording that has its highlight in 'Room of Oracles' which has a nice 'dead of night' creepy deserted ballroom feel to it after the previous night's carnage. Such a pity that the song titles are so pathetic.

Reverb, delay and silence using only piano are central to all the tunes presented here. Just one tune has vocals but are so reverbed they sound more like an instrument than flesh and blood. That's no bad thing though as this is one of the few that really stand out.

Apparently he was inspired at a young age by the sounds created by winds blown across telephone wires. All the tunes do tend to get a bit similar but always remain beautiful.

Harold Budd developed a style of ambient music that will remain forever his. He's instantly recognisable within this field. Just 3 stars for this one though, as there are very few avenues investigated, preferring just to plod along down the straight path he's chosen - that, combined with a very dull cover and poor liner notes supplied with the disc. Probably more deserving of 4 stars, but then, I've got hat feeling of Dijon -vu - the feeling I've heard this mustard before.

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Send comments to Dobermensch (BETA) | Report this review (#644877)
Posted Saturday, March 03, 2012 | Review Permalink
colorofmoney91
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Back to the style of more ambient compositions.

After a stretch of two interesting and beautiful albums, Harold Budd regresses once again to the style that he is most known for: impressionistic ambient piano-based compositions. That being said, The Room is a bit different from similarly styled The Pleateaux of Mirror mostly because of it's tendency to stay on the darker side. Whereas compositions on the aforementioned album were occasionally uplifting and ethereal because of "happy" chord progressions and suffocating reverb, here the reverb is toned down considerably to offer a lonelier and earthlier effect, and the chord progressions are noticeably gloomier. As far as the atmosphere of The Room goes, I'd say it's got a similar effect to the great Abandoned Cities -- if Abandoned Cities was the soundtrack to a post- apocalyptic overcast city, this album is the soundtrack to each individual gray room in every empty building. The music isn't as forceful or vast, but still creates the same feeling of abandonment in a much more intimate setting.

Although The Room is largely piano-based, there are still enhancements from various other keyboards and synths to create a more varied piano-based album than The Plateaux of Mirror, and the compositions themselves have more clearly stated melodic lines that put in place a greater emotional grasp that Plateaux almost lacked entirely. But, even if the compositions are stronger, that doesn't necessarily make this album extremely interesting. To be honest, this album is somewhat boring, but I've always been more keen on Budd's more grandiose ambient synth soundscape power than his somber piano playing, though it'd be ridiculous to not at least recognize the obvious beauty that comes naturally through his piano playing, and it's also obvious that he greatly enjoyed composing for the instrument because his emotions are always able to be felt in everything he composes.

The best way to describe The Room is the depressing nacht musik brother of Plateaux with a stronger sense of compositional direction and emotional strength. Regardless of it not being among Harold Budd's most powerful work, I do believe that it is one of his best piano-based albums, mostly for the deeply affecting depressing tone.

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Send comments to colorofmoney91 (BETA) | Report this review (#663841)
Posted Sunday, March 18, 2012 | Review Permalink

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