John Foxx & Harold Budd: Translucence/Drift Music

All twenty-seven of the pieces on this double-CD reissue of material originally released in 2003 are credited to John Foxx and Harold Budd, yet it's hard not to hear the first set, Translucence, as a Budd solo set, given how seamlessly its sound matches others in his discography. All of its pieces wrap trademark Budd piano playing in generous folds of reverb, so much so that phantom echoes seem to emanate off of every one of the luminous piano patterns in the dozen settings. There's a Satie-like delicacy and ethereal purity to the material that's redolent of Budd's playing, regardless of whatever contributions Foxx brought to it. Interestingly, his own comment about the Translucence track “Spoken Roses” suggests that his role was more that of producer than musical contributor: “I recorded that; it's Harold's music, and I was lucky enough to be there to catch it from the air.”

Foxx, who in a previous incarnation fronted Ultravox! in the ‘70s before embarking on a solo career, has humbly described himself as Budd's apprentice: “Along with Satie,” Foxx says, “he taught me almost everything I know about this kind of music. What you really look for—that instant when something magical and mysterious crystallizes in the air.” On that note, there are many such moments on Translucence, with settings such as “Here and Now” and “Raindust” requiring no further argument on their behalf than their own unalloyed beauty. By the time the last stirring notes of “You Again” fade away, you just might find yourself putting Translucence up there with Ambient 2 (The Plateaux of Mirror) and The White Arcades.

Though the sound design changes in Drift Music, the material manifests a similar degree of splendour. The focus often retreats from identifiable instrument sounds to something more abstract, without the music ever losing its seductive quality in the process. That said, there are still pieces where Budd's piano is front and center, “The Other Room,” “Resonant Frequency,” and “Linger” three such examples; there's a crystalline beauty to productions such as “Coming Into Focus” and “After All This Time” that's undeniable, and a shimmering grandeur attends “Stepping Sideways” in a way that seems characteristically Eno-like. The material on Drift Music is as sensuous as that on Translucence, and the impression left by this ample, 140-minute collection is strong indeed.

November 2015