Music for Fragments from the Inside (with Harold Budd)
Styles: Traditionally, the music of minimalist composer Harold Budd has straddled the line between modern composition and new age. Dreamlike, Eno-esque, treated piano melodies that frequently veer towards m
Others: Brian Eno, Enigma, Craig Armstrong, Banco de Gaia
Traditionally, the music of minimalist composer Harold Budd has straddled the line between modern composition and new age. Dreamlike, Eno-esque, treated piano melodies that frequently veer towards maudlin sentimentality, Budd's compositions, more often than not, are style-over-substance moodscapes that are more suitable for background music than rigorous listening excursions. Among my circle of acquaintances, people seem to have a love-hate relationship with Budd. For instance, a reviewer friend of mine regards with great admiration The Moon and the Melodies, the oft-forgotten 1986 collaboration between Budd and Cocteau Twins (which is also, for that matter, a perfect meeting-place between the styles of the two respective artists). Many times I have attempted to develop an appreciation for the album, which my friend swears upon as a masterpiece of the genre (1980s-4AD-dream-pop), to no avail. What has always struck me as its fundamental flaw (which, in my humble opinion, also applies to much of the other work of Cocteau Twins and Harold Budd, for that matter) is that its musical integrity is compromised by over-the-top, bathetic mawkishness. I stated in another review that I'm inclined toward similar feelings about Sigur Rós (which leaves me in a distinct minority among my peers). I find that most emotionally manipulative music is deceptive and tends to cheat the listener (even Górecki's Symphony No. 3 is too heavy-handed for my taste, the vast majority of the time). Music, by its very nature, is designed to evoke an emotional response, but the response is best achieved through subtle, intricate means. Otherwise, what you have is nothing more than a soundtrack.
In any case, I was pleasantly surprised and not altogether unimpressed by Music for Fragments from the Inside, the 2005 Sub Rosa release from Harold Budd and Milanese producer/electronic composer Eraldo Bernocchi. Bernocchi's icy, mechanical production is an effective counterbalance to Budd's warmer, gauzy piano tones. On this outing, Budd's notes sound almost claustrophobic at times, as if they are struggling to break free of Bernocchi's dead-tech accoutrements. Music for Fragments was actually composed as a soundtrack to an art installation by videographer Petulia Mattioli and poet Mara Bressi at Siena's Palazzo Delle Papesse Centro Arte Contemporanea. As such, it is a successful work. It's non-invasive, reasonably innocuous electronic music that, on the one hand, soothes the nerves, with the seven lengthy, droning tracks having a trance-like effect upon the listener. On the other hand, Music for Fragment has a slightly dissonant and abrasive post-industrial edge to it. Many of the pieces, oddly, are broken up by beats and effects that invoke the golden era of trip-hop, circa-1996. The bulk of the album ("Part 7" in particular) sounds like pieces that didn't quite make the final cut of the Pi soundtrack. Bernocchi's contributions display crystalline production that is clearly meant to adorn Budd's subdued melodies, rather than self-consciously draw attention to itself. But the album makes no pretensions. It is simply what it is: a pleasant, mature-sounding hipster score to European performance art. It's attractive on a superficial level, and, though it effectively conveys atmosphere, it ultimately fails to be memorable.
1. Part 1
2. Part 2
3. Part 3
4. Part 4
5. Part 5
6. Part 6
7. Part 7