Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd: Bordeaux
Darla Records

Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd previously showcased the fruits of their collaborative labours in 2006 when the twin albums After The Night Falls and Before The Day Breaks appeared. Their new work, Bordeaux (so-titled because it was laid down during the hazy summer of 2010 in a studio near Bordeaux, France) is perhaps an even more beautiful statement that finds the signature elements associated with each of the creators receiving full expression in the fifty-minute album. Though they'll long be celebrated for their individual contributions to contemporary electronic music, Budd as the creator of The Pearl and The Plateaux of Mirror and Guthrie as one of the key figures responsible for The Cocteau Twins' body of work, their work together, while nowhere near as groundbreaking as those career-defining accomplishments, is still very satisfying indeed (the two actually first met when they, along with Elizabeth Fraser and Simon Raymonde, recorded The Moon and the Melodies in 1986).

There's an elegance and soul-stirring quality to Bordeaux that demands that it be either experienced as an immersive headphones listen or played on a high-quality sound system. Presented in this manner, the material can seem rapturous. Six of the quietly radiant pieces are relatively short, making them seem like romantic miniatures, while the three closing pieces stretch out longer. “Gaze” re-introduces us to the unmistakable sound of Budd's piano playing and Guthrie's shimmering guitar, and the spell remains unbroken throughout the eight settings that follow. In poised pieces whose wistful character is reinforced by titles like “The Names of Those Never Here” and “So Many Short Years Ago,” the instruments float peacefully in vast oceans of reverb, and limpid guitar lines and softly glimmering piano playing abound in tracks that traffic in a kind of sublime ambient. The coup de grace in this case is the ten-minute closer “Southern Shore,” an ever-so-patient exercise in neo-symphonic brooding that's so emotionally powerful it's simply magnificent, but, generally speaking, it would be no stretch to describe Bordeaux as glorious ambient music-making of the most elegant kind.

April 2011