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Harold Budd - In the Mist CD (album) cover


Harold Budd


Progressive Electronic

3.04 | 6 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
3 stars Harold Budd's year 2011 album presents yet another collection of ambient piano improvisations, but as usual with Budd the layers go far deeper than what first meets the ear. The album's thirteen tracks were organized into three arbitrary sections (sorry: movements) titled "The Whispers"; "Gunfighters"; and "Shadows", the last act being a set of understated string quartet arrangements, with no piano within earshot.

Unfortunately, the sudden shift away from the composer's primary instrument upsets the delicate balance of sound. A Harold Budd album works better with Budd actually performing on it, and when he does the impact (as here) can be spellbinding, in a subliminal sort of way.

The music is more effective when it grows more repetitive. Listen to "The Foundry" or to "The Art of Mirrors", the latter a kindred spirit to Brian Eno's "Music For Airports", evoking the empty passenger terminal after all flights were grounded in heavy fog. Budd has always been a master of sonic manipulation, and for these sessions his keyboard was muted to resemble an unplugged electric guitar, or else gently warped (in "The Foundry", and elsewhere) to suggest the sound of old vinyl on a malfunctioning turntable.

That subtle distortion might have been an accident of the recording process Budd decided to keep. The effect barely registers above a subconscious level, but it artfully subverts the serenity of the music and removes it from any suggestion of New Age superficiality. Ditto the sound of something like discreetly jangling cowboy spurs, in the Gunfighters title "Greek George": High Noon in the Mojave Desert sagebrush of Budd's childhood.

Minimalism doesn't always equate to meditative, and despite the overwhelming aura of calm the album will reward active listening, with a little effort. This is music that requires the right environment to blossom inside a listener's mind: the perfect convergence of weather, temperature, mood, and lack of background distraction. If any one condition isn't optimal the whole thing can come across as empty pretense. But even when it isn't working, Budd's piano technique is typically so quiet it can't help but hold your attention.

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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