Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd should need no introduction, but in recognizing the possibility that some readers are not familiar with the work of these two great artists, a short preamble is needed here. Guthrie was for many years the guitarist (and main sound architect) of the great Cocteau Twins (if you haven’t heard any of their discs, pick up Victorialand, Blue Bell Knoll, and Heaven or Las Vegas immediately). Guthrie also played for dreampop band Violent Indiana, before turning to a more recent ambient solo career. Budd is a brilliant ambient piano composer who has been playing on the music scene for decades. Together the two (along with the rest of Cocteau Twins collaborated on the legendary Moon and the Melodies release in the 1980’s, with Budd and Guthrie also teaming up earlier this decade on the soundtrack to the film, Mysterious Skin (haunting ambient music that amazed all listeners who had a chance to hear it). After Guthrie’s breathtaking solo releases, his fans were thrilled to hear that he would be collaborating again with Budd to release music in 2007. What took listeners by surprise was the mere scope of the release, or more accurately, releases when they were announced for release. The masters of ambience and atmosphere have released two full lengths of material After The Night Falls and Before The Day Breaks, with each disc containing a companion song on the other disc. Both releases are explorations in dreamy yet accessible instrumental soundscapes.
The title of After The Night Falls is evocative enough to create an idea as to the mood of the recording. The CD is contains a collection of 9 subtle, slow-moving, gentle songs that are dark and moody. Budd’s soft and lingering piano melodies are cradled by Guthrie’s atmospheric guitar and drone work. In fact, fans used to hearing Guthrie’s guitar up front playing the melodies (such as on his recent solo work) will note that on After The Night Falls it is mainly Budd who handles the melody, giving Guthrie the freedom to expand his sound and create the vibe of the recording. That’s not to say that Guthrie‘s guitar (with his always perfect choice of rich guitar tones) does not ebb from the surface of the drones. On tracks such as “How Distant Your Heart”, he plays the counter-melody to Budd’s piano, and “Turn Off The Sun”, Guthrie takes over the lead melody in his signature style. But for most of the disc, it is Budd who provides the structure to the music. On “And Then I Turned Away”, Budd’s piano gracefully rides atop subtle spacey atmospherics. On some songs, the mood turns quite eerie, such as on “The Girl With Colorful Thoughts”, on which quiet drones lilt around strange and melodic sounds. The whole atmosphere of the CD is perfectly suited to night time listening: the music slows the listener down, dulling the sharp distractions of life and melting away the anxieties of the day. The music is stilling, and allows for deep reflecting and relaxing due to the sheer beauty of the recording.
Fans have come to expect a great deal from Guthrie, Budd, and their numerous partnerships. Thankfully, After The Night Falls only upholds the impressive reputation of these two fine artists. This CD is absolutely gorgeous, featuring sensitive playing and an attention to sonics that only confident and experienced musicians can conjure up. If you are familiar with either artist, you know what to expect: only the finest in ambient/atmospheric music. And if you are largely unfamiliar with the work of Budd/Guthrie, this disc is accessible enough in its subtle melodies to hold a listener’s attention while leading the listener into more experimental ambience. Highly recommended!