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  music from the film Mysterious Skin  
  Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd  


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If you have paid attention to this site, you would be aware that Robin Guthrie is one of my musical heroes. His sole release of new music during 2005 pairs him with minimalist pianist/composer Harold Budd. This is actually their second collaboration, the first being 1986's The Moon and the Melodies. This time around, Budd and Guthrie prepared minimal and lush ambient music for a film. I have to confess that i have not seen the film, and don't even know if it played in theaters here in Atlanta. No matter, this music can stand on its own.

Budd and Guthrie make a good pair. Budd plays his piano and keyboards through a lot of echo, creating a huge spacious sound in which notes linger for minutes or build into cascading waves of sound. That's also what Guthrie does with his guitar, using chorus and delay and tremolo to make a lush, full sound. If you are familiar with his recent solo work or his work with Violet Indiana, then you know what i mean. The music that Guthrie does here is very much along those lines.

This release tends to blend into the background when you are, say, trying to focus on wordsmithing, but if you sit still and listen to it, it reveals some wonderful things. It is just not forceful in the way that so much music is. I guess that's what i like about ambient. It's hard to sort through an ambient release and pick good tunes to discuss, but here are a few anyway.

The soundtrack starts with Neil's Theme, a light tune that would have fit seamlessly on Guthrie's Imperial release, only here he is backed by some delicate piano work from Budd. This song drifts along lightly and fades into The Memories Returning. This second song sounds almost like an outtake from The Moon and the Melodies, with Budd playing the forceful lead part of strong echoing piano notes, while Guthrie's guitar is a faint fuzzy sound accompanying it. These two songs start the album off right, one for each of these great musicians, one showcasing each to wonderful effect.

Snowfall mixes it up a bit. This tune moves along completely ambiently for several minutes, just a faint music haze, then a drum machine kicks in, and Guthrie and Budd move their pace from languid up to unhurried. The song progresses nicely. Loitering is very similar. Guthrie is playing a low wail of stretched out arpeggios backed by Budd's piano drones, when suddenly a drum machine beat comes in, and things get just ever so much more active. I really like what these two are doing here, the way the songs build slowly then suddenly accelerate with the addition of the drum machine. Percussion is so rare on this album, so that when it comes it is something of a shock.

One final tune that i would like to point out is The Writing on the Wall. This is actually a very brief interlude, but Guthrie does something really nice with a slide guitar here. I don't normally care for slide, but in his hands it sounds achingly beautiful.

One point: this might very well be Harold Budd's final release, since he is retiring. Now, as a fan i should know if this is his last release, but i don't. Gee, a lazy ambient fan -- go figure!

Overall, this is a nice album to just sit an relax too. But then again, that is the point of ambient music after all. I really wonder how the music fits in with the film. Maybe someday i'll see itů. I know that most people won't enjoy this album, as ambient music in general is something that most people don't enjoy. However, this is really well done, and if you are curious, i urge you to seek this out, find a nice quiet space, and just sit and spend some time with the album. It is definitely worthwhile.

Related Links:
  Imperial by Robin Guthrie  

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