Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd: Before The Day Breaks (Darla, 2007)
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.
Picking up loosely where After The Night Falls ends, Before The Day Breaks is an even mellower affair, reflecting the late night atmosphere of its title. Like After The Night Falls, Before The Day Breaks contains 9 tracks, with each track on the latter corresponding to one on the former disc. For instance, Before The Day Breaks begins with “How Close Your Soul”, while the other disc begins with “How Distant Your Heart”. This linking of songs between the two discs is an intriguing concept for a two disc collection, but both discs also stand beautifully on their own. Before The Day Breaks begins with sonic treatments from Guthrie sparking around the piano melody of Budd. The track is slow-moving, quiet, and instantly stilling. Rather than blowing the listener away with a powerful track, the duo intelligently lead the listener into the depths of the night with their careful arrangements and echoing production. Throughout the disc Budd and Guthrie incorporate subtle nuances into their already beautiful base of soothing and slightly dark ambient compositions. For instance, listen how Budd effortlessly incorporates little piano arpeggio runs into “A Formless Path”, listen to the depths of Guthrie’s hazy and layered drones on the aptly-titled “Hidden Message”, and listen to the duo anticipate the arrival of morning on the final track, the exquisite “Turn On The Moon”. On this song, which most resembles Guthrie’s accessible solo dream-rock work, bright keyboard and piano melodies usher in a full-sounding band approach, complete with gorgeous Guthrie guitar lines, and ends the CD on a hopeful note.
In its totality, Before The Day Breaks is a beautiful CD, filled with the kind of mellow, gentle, pure-sounding music one has come to expect from Budd and Guthrie. These men are true treasures to the world of music, and Before The Day Breaks is a wonderful opportunity to hear fresh, new music from them at this point in their careers. Age hasn’t diminished Budd and Guthrie’s ability to orchestrate and record consistently stunning music; in fact, their experience and fluency in ambient/dreamy music has served to cause these new releases to stand out from the crowd. Before The Day Breaks is passionate, intimate, and perfectly serene in so many ways, and is highly recommended for any fan of ambient music, dreamy atmospheric compositions, or longtime fans of the artists themselves.
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