INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Sid Smith's Postcards From The Yellow Room SEPTEMBER 4, 2005 - by Sid Smith
HAROLD BUDD & BRIAN ENO: THE PEARL
After spending much of the '70s and the early '80s hurtling into the unknown, Brian Eno found time to take his foot took his foot off the gas, pausing to explore in a bit more detail those panoramas of possible music that had whizzed by on the initial journey out there.
One such return was The Pearl with American composer Harold Budd. First released in 1984 it followed on from their first collaboration four years earlier, The Plateaux Of Mirror, which in turn consolidated a relationship forged during Budd's 1978 Obscure label and recording debut, The Pavilion Of Dreams.
Driven by the woebegone beauty of Budd's simple compositions, lilting melodies buoyed up on a swell of sombre chords and soft-pedal reverberation, Plateaux is a stripped-back affair compared to the lush, more expansive treatments afforded the stately pieces that comprise The Pearl.
There's a sense of unfinished business pervading this album perhaps exemplified on Their Memories. Essentially, a reprise of The Chill Air (from Plateaux) the notes on that occasion emanated from the slow drawl of a reversed piano into pin-sharp, startled silence. On The Pearl the process is turned around; notes slice through layers of shivering atmospherics, leaving long echoing trails in their frosty wake.
The credit for this extra texture can be ascribed to engineer Daniel Lanois (for which he receives front cover billing) and with whom Eno refurbished U2's sonic signature on The Unforgettable Fire released the same year as The Pearl.
There's a greater emphasis on the exotic fauna populating the imaginary woodlands through which Budd's melancholic tunes seem destined to drift, but unlike the delicate elegance of their earlier outing, an implied menace underscores several of the tracks here; Dark Eyed Sister sways somewhere between a promise and a warning, alluring yet potentially dangerous, whilst the murmuring crosscurrents percolating beneath the title track suggests that though the water may look lovely, caution should be observed when diving in.
Yet for all its seductive charm this is a relatively modest work grand scheme of things. Lacking the necessity of his other ambient-orientated releases it will appeal primarily to Eno completists who may wish to note that the differences between this new version and the original CD transfer are, appropriately enough I suppose, minimal. Newcomers might be better off being directed towards The Plateaux Of Mirror and Budd's own 1986 release, Lovely Thunder.