Feature in Sound On Sound, January 1997 by Paul Tingen:
Since the late ‘70s, it has become a habit for recording artists to take longer and longer to write and record their music. Peter Gabriel, most famously, may take several years to record an album. At the other end of the spectrum, there are still a few bands and artists who will write and record an album in a matter of weeks.
And then there’s Harold Budd. The American ex-minimalist, ex-college lecturer, experimental ambient composer, solo artist and bon viveur may have taken eight years to release Luxa, his first solo studio album since The White Arcades (1988), but the speed and working methods with which he created his new album beggar belief. Luxa is a full sixty-two minutes and thirty-two seconds long, contains 16 pieces, and the music on it was written, played, recorded and mixed in just eleven days. On top of this, Budd still had time, according to engineer Michael Coleman (who recorded the album at his Orangewood Studios in Mesa, Arizona, to “come into the studio some mornings, decide that he didn’t feel inspired at all, and call it a day”. At other times, Budd would spend hours trawling through synth sounds, trying to find a sound he liked, yet all Coleman would hear, in response to every sound that Budd tried, was: “Hate it... hate it... hate it... hate it... hate it... hate it...” But, adds Coleman: “When he’s ‘on’, he’s really on and it’s fascinating to watch him work. He’s a really nice guy, very laid back, very easy-going, yet when he’s inspired he just explodes creatively. He knows exactly what he wants and knows how to get the sounds he wants, and he works really, really quickly.”
Budd must indeed work very quickly, for although the music on Luxa falls clearly into ambient territory, it’s not filled with endless repetitions, nor with basic musical ideas stretched beyond breaking point. Instead, every piece on Luxa is based on a clear idea, has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and, although they’re low on melody and high on atmospheric synthesizer pads and piano improvisations, there’s a definite and captivating musical structure that runs through each. It’s all held together by Budd’s relaxed timing and infallible use of space.
Despite its spaciousness, however, Luxa is musically richer than The White Arcades. The latter album consisted largely of slow-moving, warm and sleepy atmospheric synthesizer parts, whereas Luxa is harsher and starker, features much more solo piano, and employs more rhythmic devices, largely courtesy of Budd’s huge collection of ethnic rattles, shakers, gourds and bells. In short, Luxa is a minor masterpiece that demonstrates that there’s still life in ambient music, and that it’s still possible to make a meditative musical work that’s neither New Age kitsch, nor weighed down by the numbing repetitiveness and sterile conceptualism that’s hampered the minimalist and ambient genres for so long. Inhabiting an aesthetic universe all its own, Luxa also demonstrates that it’s still possible to forge a recognisable musical identity with the use of modern keyboards.
Butterflies With Tits
1 Niki D.
2 A Sidelong Glance From My Round Nefertiti
3 Agnes Martin
4 Anish Kapoor
5 Paul McCarthy
6 Serge Poliakoff
9 How Dark The Response To Our Slipping Away
10 Nove Alberi
15 Sweet Earth Flying
Composed By – Marion Brown
Composed By – Blaine L. Reininger, Steven Brown