If you are a connoisseur of ambient music, then you understand why a collaboration between Harold Budd and Robin Guthrie is one worth drooling over. Between them, they are responsible for not only some of the most beautiful music of the past twenty-five years, but they're also responsible for entire genres of music--beautiful, thought-provoking, relaxing music. They've collaborated in the past; 1986's Cocteau Twins collaboration The Moon & The Melodies is one of the most beautiful collections of music, and easily the Twins' high point. After that collaboration, Guthrie appeared on Budd's The White Arcades, an album I consider Budd's masterpiece. Budd and Guthrie collaborated a decade later on the soundtrack to Mysterious Skin, but that was not an in-person collaboration. Last year's collaboration yielded two beautiful albums' worth of material, released as sister albums After the Night Falls and Before the Day Breaks.
When I heard of their collaboration last year, I couldn't wait. It excited me greatly! And I'm happy to report that the results do not disappoint. Musically speaking, the material found on these two albums recall The White Arcades; Budd's piano and keyboard work amalgamates wonderfully with Guthrie's gentle, distinctive guitar style. It would have proven understandable that both take turns sharing the lead, but theirs is a rarity: two innovators who can compose music that sounds like their individual work, yet sounds like a true collaboration. Theirs is a world of gentle atmospherics, bound together by ethereal strums of a guitar and the star-like twinkle of a piano.
In the compilation process, Budd and Guthrie decided to link the two albums thematically, by song titles. So, for instance, After's second song, "Avenue of Shapes" is mirrored with Before's "A Formless Path." Some might find it charming; others might find it annoyingly artsy. It doesn't distract from the music, nor does it have anything to do with the music, really. Besides, does music this beautiful even need something as utterly arbitrary as a song title? I think not. After the Night Falls and Before the Day Breaks are sparkling crown jewels in the crowns of these men's already storied careers.
I don't think I need to say that they're also two of the best records of 2007, do I?
Now, if we could only get Mr. Budd and Andy Partridge back together...
Listen To: "A Formless Path"
Listen To: "Avenue of Shapes"
After the Night Falls and Before the Day Breaks are both available now on Darla Records
Labels: Ambient, bo07, Darla Records, Harold Budd, Robin Guthrie