Although the newest album by renowned composer and pianist Harold Budd is his first release of string quartets and contains very little piano playing, it's a stunner just the same. To my ears, these recordings are closest in spirit to his 2004 masterpiece, Avalon Sutra
, but where that album was lush, with its melancholy strings rooted in perfumed pools of liquid piano chording, here those strings are left to fend for themselves, and the effect is both lovely and disconcerting. On the surface, there is beauty, but under the skin, these pieces have a cyclical menace that slowly breathes cold air. It's fitting that there is a track on this album entitled "Perfume Doesn't Dance," as these pieces, in contrast to those on Avalon Sutra
, do not either; there is little to no romance on Bandits of Stature
, very much unlike anything Budd has previously released, and while it's somewhat odd at first, the gentle repetition of the string movements will envelop you and draw you in. Budd punctuates these slow movements with quiet pauses and gentle silences, but the rests offer no respite; it is only when Budd's piano finally does make a brief appearance three-quarters into the album that we come up for air. This is a deep, beautiful record rooted in dark, solemn emotions, but its strengths cannot be ignored. While some may find difficulty in a Harold Budd album without his signature piano ambiance, this is a bold, naked step in a new direction that proves there is more to this man than we perhaps expected.
-Mikey IQ Jones
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