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Harold Budd, an American composer and pianist who draws on drone, minimalism, conceptual notation, and other rarified practices, has made it clear that he does not consider himself an ambient musician. But, perhaps to his chagrin, most of the world disagrees, largely because of his collaborations with Brian Eno in the 1980s. Produced by Daniel Lanois, The Pearl was the duo’s follow-up to the seminal Ambient 2: The Plateaux of Mirror, and its title perfectly describes the inimitable timbre produced at the juncture of Budd’s “soft pedal” piano style, achingly slow and drenched in sustain, and Eno’s discreet processing, which transforms the instrument’s natural resonance into gentle swirls of snow and sheets of melting, cracking ice.
Budd’s delicately creeping, expressive intervals sway and grasp like longing incarnate, in impressionistic pieces that are mimetically precise—the aqueous, darting “A Stream With Bright Fish” and the smooth, round “The Silver Ball” vividly evoke their titles. The Pearl’s icy elegance, sumptuous beauty, and mesmeric pace form the Platonic ideal which all post-classical piano-ambient has since imitated. Hearing it feels like retreating into a snow globe where there is nothing to think about, but everything to feel. –Brian Howe User Comments