Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd: Before the Day Breaks / After the Night Falls

Listeners familiar with the output of Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins' Blue Bell Knoll, Heaven Or Las Vegas) and Harold Budd (The Pearl, Avalon Sutra, the Brian Eno collaboration Ambient 2: Plateaux of the Mirror) will pretty much know what to expect from these companion discs—not that that's in any way objectionable. After the Night Falls and Before the Day Breaks combine for ninety minutes of heavenly instrumental music with the natural focal points Budd's piano playing and Guthrie's guitar work, and both instruments thoroughly drenched in reverb and echo. The two albums are conceived as dualistic reflections of one another, such that each song on one has a complement on the other; consequently, “How Close Your Soul” connects to “How Distant Your Heart,” “A Minute, A Day, No More” aligns with “Seven Thousand Sunny Years,” and so on. It's not the first time they've worked together, either, as Budd collaborated with Cocteau Twins on the 1986 album The Moon and the Melodies. Judging from the music on their latest venture, it would be hard to conceive of any artists more simpatico than these two.

What the two artists create in these eighteen predominantly melancholy settings is stirring, peaceful, paradisiacal, meditative, mournful, wistful—in a word, beautiful. Throughout the two parts, streams of pealing guitars and piano ripples echo and elongate, and become billowing, shuddering masses, such that the generous spaces between the notes consequently assume as much sonic weight as the notes themselves. Some pieces highlight one artist more than the other (Budd in “A Formless Path,” Guthrie in “A Minute, A Day, No More”); elsewhere, the two are equally prominent (“She is My Weakness,” “I Returned Her Glance”). Heavenly is the only word that can describe a setting like “Open Book” and, when the last seconds of “Turn Off the Sun” die out, you'll be left wondering one thing only: why did it take so long for this release to happen?

July 2007