Silence Required: The Best of Harold Budd, an Icon of Echoes.
Harold Budd left the planet on December 7th at the age of 84 due to complications from Covid-19.. You can see our obituary here. This was a list of 5 Essential albums I created for the 20 Icons of Echoes Celebration in 2010. I don’t think I would change it.
Harold Budd was a romantic with a classicist’s soul and an experimenter’s openness to chance. He never opted for the obvious ploys for the heartstrings. Instead, Budd explored the geometry of passion, the calculus of love and the shadows of memories. Harold has been on Echoes many times over the years. He’s recorded three Echoes Living Room Concerts. One of them appears on his own CD, Little Windows. He was voted #24 of 30 Icons of Echoes. He has just left the planet on December 7. We’ll have a feature on him Thursday, 12/10/2020. Here’s 5 of his CDs you should have.
5 Essential Harold Budd CDs
1 The Plateaux of Mirror
From the first fade in of echoing piano notes, The Plateaux of Mirror established the ouevre Harold Budd would explore for the next 30 years. Working in collaboration with Brian Eno, Budd unfolds his nostalgic, wistful melodies like the echo from a dusty parlor. Relentlessly pretty, laden with reverb and Eno’s shadowing ambient treatments, Plateaux reveals itself in ever deepening layers and Budd’s melodic improvisations that drop like slow motion rain across the soundfield.
2 The Pavilion of Dreams
This was Harold Budd’s first album. It was produced by Brian Eno, but drew upon Budd’s compositions from the early 1970s before he met the ambient producer. This is Budd refracting minimalism, jazz, exoticism and his own growing sense of ambient spaces and heartwrenching melodicism. “Bismallahi ‘Rrahmann ‘Rrahim” moves in waves of gently cresendoing melody, sustained on gurgling marimbas and pushed by the alto of Marion Brown, the great avant-garde saxophonist who taps into his lyrical side for Budd. “Madrigals of the Rose Angel” is a haunting work for choir and chamber group.
3 The Pearl
In their second collaboration, The Pearl, Harold Budd and Brian Eno go even more minimal and restrained. Budd drops notes and contemplates each one with zen-like meditation. “Against the Sky” is a work of sublime restraint with Budd playing a Fender Rhodes electric piano in which each note sustains into infinity, trailed by one of Eno’s ambient ghost strings.
4 Avalon Sutra
This was supposed to be Harold Budd’s swansong and one of the reasons he went into depression is because he couldn’t get this album released. But David Sylvian saved the day, releasing it on his Samadhi Sound label. Avalon Sutra is a masterpiece of ambient chamber miniatures as Budd threads his tremulous, spartan piano themes amidst a string quartet, the reeds of Philip Glass accompanist, Jon Gibson and ambient atmospheres. It’s a CD that seems haunted by memories and longing, and many of the pieces bear dedications to people in Budd’s life. If there’s a flaw to Avalon Sutra, some of the pieces are simply too short. You want to hear these pearls extended and developed. That happens on a second bonus disc, an expanded remix by Akira Rabelais. He takes Budd’s miniatures and stretches them and reforges them into a single extended meditation. Either disc leaves you immersed in a world of bittersweet melancholy.
5 THE ROOM
The Room was a return to form for Budd, recalling the suspended piano tones of The Plateaux of Mirror as well as the icy atmospheres of his late 1980s album, The White Arcades. In fact, the album is based on a piece called “The Room” from The White Arcades recording. Budd explores the most sublime melancholy on The Room, with piano melodies hanging like moss gardens over ghostly organ drones and reverbs. Every melody is fecund with shadows, hidden glances and hazy memories. Many musicians have adopted Budd’s sound and most of them pale in comparison once the master starts ruminating.
John Diliberto ((( echoes )))