Harold Budd & Clive Wright: Little Windows

One expects the unmistakable sound of Harold Budd's acoustic piano playing to grace any recording on which he appears and in that regard Little Windows, his third full-length collaboration with guitarist Clive Wright, is no different from A Song for Lost Blossoms and Candylion. But it also ventures into other territory where one might be harder pressed to identify the material as involving Budd; that's especially the case when Wright's lead voice is heard soloing against lush backgrounds (Wright also plays Roland Guitar Synth on the fifty-minute set). Perhaps that can be explained by the fact that, of the three albums, Little Windows is the one that's least strictly collaborative, as only two of its nine tracks are full-fledged Budd-Wright compositions: four are fleshed-out Wright solo compositions and three are solo Budd pieces. Regardless of such differences, the recording could be described as nine oft-opulent settings of largely serene character.

“Plumade” establishes the album's mood with a luscious ambient meditation of electric guitar shadings, after which Wright's playing is front and center throughout “Prelucid,” his attack alternately raw and elegant as the instrument arcs overtop a heavily synthesized backdrop. In “Procession of Moons,” he weaves multiple guitars, his tone sometimes reminiscent of Robert Fripp's, into a choir of Siren-like voices that alternately shudder and cry (the Fripp tone re-emerges during the equally entrancing meditation “Numismatic”). On “Queen of Cydonia,” the album track that most directly evokes the desert landscape of his Joshua Tree, California home, Wright's slide playing exudes a dusty twang that gives the piece a lone plains drifter feel.

Ending the album with three solo piano pieces can't help but separate the recording into two sections. Having said that, Budd's playing is, as always, ravishing, and that it's minimalistic doesn't prevent it from being lyrical on its own restrained terms. The wistful and reflective “Tong War” and “Damask, Then” offer stark contrasts to the more mysterious and impressionistic “Sweet Earth Flying.” By now, it should be clear that admirers of the duo's previous outings will find their latest satisfying too, despite the modest number of formal collaborations it includes.

June 2010