Sunday, December 23, 2012

Lux by Brian Eno & Bandits of Stature by Harold Budd

In my own mind there are reasons for comingling impressions of these two albums. That doesn't mean the reasons are valid or universal, however. I suppose it goes back to two collaborative works by these artists that form the core of my ambient music collection: Ambient 2: Plateaux of Mirror (1980) and The Pearl (1984) (also with Daniel Lanois). The two are definitely among my favorite ambient albums. From a practical standpoint, with all the new music I've acquired lately that I'd like to share, writing one post seems more efficient than two.

Lux is Eno's first solo album since 2005. Subtitled The Play of Light, the album is said to have been inspired by Eno's observation of sunlight's interaction with his home studio throughout the course of  day. With that seed planted, I find it hard not to agree that Lux evokes the sensation of sunlight dappling and tinkling and weaving through the environment, evolving in color and intensity with time. Sonically the music, which is primarily keyboard, is light (in weight) but not spare, which should not surprise any fan of Eno's. This is not high-noon blazing sunlight, but morning rays peaking through foliage and refracted by glass. I was first tempted to compare this with Eno's Thursday Afternoon but after several listenings I now find it much more similar to the randomly indeterministic 77 Million Paintings. (I realize that most other reviewers are placing Lux in direct lineage with Discrete Music.) And while tonally the playing consists of discrete notes, they shimmer and echo and interplay - not just with each other but with you, the listener.

More information about Lux is available on Eno's website at

[Correction, 17 Feb 2013 - I have since come to learn that Lux was inspired by Eno's experience with lighting inside the  Great Gallery of the Palace of Venaria. For accurate details on that inspiration read this transcript of Laurie Anderson interviewing Eno.]

Bandits of Stature is the latest work from minimalist composer and pianist Harold Budd. Unlike almost all of Budd's previous works, Bandits consists of 14 works for strings, performed by the Formalist Quartet.

In the same way that I love painting but find sculpture to be uninspiring, the conclusion I've reached is that I love piano but strings leave me a bit cold. Regardless of the track, I found the songs on Bandits to be reedy and thin, almost strident in parts, and without resonance, emotionally or aurally. Perhaps I can hear Budd's prowess in parts of the compositions, but not enough to get me over the sound as a whole.

Certainly, I remain a huge fan of Budd's work and won't hesitate to get whatever he releases next. Obviously, my opinion about Bandits says more about me than Budd.

You can read more about Bandits of Stature on the Darla Records website.

I was not compensated in any way for these reviews.

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