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Harold Budd and Clive Wright - A Song for Lost Blossoms

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Artist: Harold Budd and Clive Wright

Album: A Song for Lost Blossoms

Label: Darla

Review date: Oct. 10, 2008

When Harold Budd released Avalon Sutra in 2004, it was to be his last release after three decades of music making. This wasn’t to be; Budd decided to return to composition and performance in 2007. His flip-flop on calling it quits didn’t garner a Favre-like fervor, of course, but Budd’s resumption of his musical career give the pioneer of soft sounds the chance to create some new ambiance. Emerging from his hiatus alone in the desert, Budd returned to comfortable musical environs, re-engaging with the atmospheric style upon which he made his name. No stranger to collaboration, Budd quickly found sympathetic minds with whom to make beautiful music, working on two discs in 2007 with Cocteau Twins co-founder Robin Guthrie, and most recently, A Song for Lost Blossoms, which pairs Budd with his friend, guitarist Clive Wright.

The centerpiece of the album is also its opener, "Pensive Aphrodite," a duet on synthesizer and guitar that sets the tone well for the rest of the disc. Wright’s guitar, rich with reverb, is at the forefront, gliding in Fripp-ian streaks over Budd’s somber synth washes and occasional piano. The track is the disc’s longest, more than three times the size of any that follow, but it’s also A Song for Lost Blossoms‘ least effective. The strength of ambient music in this mode is the mood it can set, and while "Pensive Aphrodite" has no problem doing so early on, there’s very little movement to the piece as it continues, and the emotional force Budd and Wright might have woven at the track’s onset is diluted the longer things proceed. Budd being Budd, fanfare or fireworks aren’t to be expected, but even within (and perhaps due to) his well-established aesthetic, "Pensive Aphrodite" drifts past any initial period of enticement into something that seems far too comfortable in the background. The shorter tracks often have better luck; while there’s no grand change in the duo’s approach as the album continues, their lessened duration makes the rest of the album more palatable. Budd is the consistent force in the music. He lays down structures; Wright reacts to them. It’s not a stilted conversation, but it seems clear who’s guiding the arc of the interplay.

No matter the skill of the men making the music, though, one must wonder whether it’s possible in 2008 for all but the most hardcore of fans to engage this music without the cultural baggage of Pure Moods and hackneyed meditation soundtracks. A Song for Lost Blossoms has its share of cheesy synthesizer voices (on "The Saint of Whispers," most notably), and that certainly doesn’t help things. The closing track, "Blind Flowers," might still engender groans and gags from those who can’t stomach what they perceive as new age tripe, but it’s the album’s best, relying more on notes than tone. Budd and Wright are so at ease on A Song for Lost Blossoms that it’s nice to hear things mixed up a bit.

A Song for Lost Blossoms finds Budd and Wright following the old entertainment advice: Give the people what they want. Fans of Budd’s pioneering work in ambient music will find themselves in familiar surroundings, but there’s little to attract those who haven’t yet fallen prey to Budd’s siren songs. Then again, anyone setting sail in such purposefully smooth waters isn’t likely looking to come aground new land. Instead, Budd and Wright seem more satisfied to remove the rudder from the water, and enjoy the gentle drift.

By Adam Strohm

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