Harold Budd & Clive Wright: A Song For Lost Blossoms

Harold Budd's latest release finds him collaborating with guitarist Clive Wright on a prototypically lovely seventy-five-minute collection of transcendent ambient music the musicians (both residents of the remote Southern California desert community of Joshua Tree) produced between 2004-06. Budd, of course, needs no introduction at this stage. Wright's the lesser known quantity but is a member of Cock Robin and has worked in various capacities with the likes of Montell Jordan, The Black Eyed Peas, and Peter Gabriel. It's an unusual release in at least two respects: by placing the thirty-two-minute “Pensive Aphrodite” at the beginning and then following it with six shorter pieces, A Song For Lost Blossoms clearly separates the ambient men from the boys, so to speak. Though one's immediate thought is that it might have been better had the longest piece appeared last, “Pensive Aphrodite” is so beautiful a composition it renders moot any opposition to it, sequencing or otherwise. The other unusual aspect is how uncannily similar Wright's electric guitar tone is to Robert Fripp's; in fact, calling it similar is understating it when the sound verges on cloning. That slightly disconcerting detail doesn't negate his contribution to the recording which is substantial: Wright is an equal partner to Budd throughout and, if anything, functions as the front-line soloist against Budd's trademark soft-focus keyboard playing. When Wright's Fripp-like guitar sound is heard against Budd's time-suspended synth backings, it's hard not to be reminded of No Pussyfooting and Evening Star, and there are moments when one could easily hear A Song for Lost Blossoms as an intended homage to those earlier classics.

Wright's electric enters powerfully four minutes into “Pensive Aphrodite” but briefly (though it re-asserts itself in the piece's closing minutes), ceding its spot to a more delicate ambient attack that tends to blend with the synthesizers into a textural whole. In this case, the guitar is heard as softly chiming glissandi that echo across Budd's tranquil mass of hazy piano and glistening synths. Though the music subtly changes character throughout the half-hour (and eventually swells to a rapturous climax), the changes occur so seamlessly the piece ends up feeling like a dreamscape largely free of turbulence. “Pensive Aphrodite” finds the duo generating a mood of ethereal serenity where time at least slows if not stands still altogether.

Naturally, the subsequent tracks don't have as powerful an impact yet they're nonetheless memorable in their own right too. The title song is given an unusual spin by featuring Anna LaCazio's restrained recitation of her poem, “A Song for Lost Blossoms,” alongside Budd's piano ruminations and synth washes and whooshes. The third and fourth pieces were recorded live at Redcat in Los Angeles (the recording is so free of live noise you'd never know it until applause appears at the end of “At This Moment”) with the first, “Forever Hold My Breath,” featuring string samples by Akira Rabelais (the song title wholly Rabelaisian) that provide a gently rocking springboard for Wright's chiming guitar explorations. “The Saint of Whispers” offers ten heavenly minutes of ambient washes and acoustic guitar shadings while “Blind Flowers” ends the album with a ponderous meditation arranged for piano and electric guitar. At seventy-five minutes, A Song for Lost Blossoms is a long album but there's no questioning its quality, and it's certainly a more-than-credible addition to Budd's deep catalogue.

October 2008