5 Essential Harold Budd CDs.

Silence Required: The Best of Harold Budd, an Icon of Echoes.

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Harold Budd in Echoes Concert

Harold Budd is a romantic with a classicist’s soul and an experimenter’s openness to chance. He’s never opted for the obvious ploys for the heartstrings.  Instead, Budd explores 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 #20 of 20 Icons of Echoes.   You can hear an interview with him tonight 9/9/2010, incluidng comments from Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois and John Adams.

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.

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.

Be sure to check out the other 20 Icons of Echoes and listen to Harold Budd, tonight, Thursday  9/9/10 on Echoes.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

  5 comments for “5 Essential Harold Budd CDs.

  1. Steve
    December 13, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    I’m very surprised that Lovely Thunder did not make this list!

  2. Jon
    August 7, 2012 at 11:17 pm

    Thanks for helping me weed through the list.

  3. eric
    November 15, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    What? No “Luxa?”

    • November 16, 2012 at 10:17 am

      I guess not. I never thought that was one of his stronger albums.

  4. Anonymous
    March 8, 2014 at 4:21 am

    I have been using this incredible man’s music in my drama lessons for years. His work is unmatched for its ability to set tone and create atmosphere. His style simply cuts across the generations.

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