Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd – After The Night Falls / Before The Day Breaks

Robin Guthrie & Harold Budd
After The Night Falls / Before The Day Breaks

After more than 20 years from their first collaboration on the Cocteau Twins’ 1986 release The Moon and the Melodies, Harold Budd (the oft-cited Godfather of ambient music) and Robin Guthrie (Violet Indiana, Mahogany collaborator, solo artist, and ex-Cocteau Twins) prove they are still at the top of their game. And that game is a winning combination of Guthrie’s ethereal, reverb-drenched guitars and Budd’s sublimely treated keyboard tones. After The Night Falls and Before The Day Breaks are a pair of simultaneously-released companion CDs by these two maestros of ambient music.

It may take some time and require many attentive spins for the two discs to distinguish themselves, as both contain meditative music as tranquil as a slowly running stream. In fact you may never differentiate the two. The soothing and shimmering, ambient soundscapes tend to possess such vast resonant space that it compels the listener to straddle the line between awake and asleep, vaguely aware of their surroundings, barely cognizant of the music while drifting into oblivion.

Of course, being the excellent purveyors of ambient music that they are, these artists create multi-layered, subtly shifting and serene sonic textures that include vibrant tonal washes among a peaceful backdrop of sound effects and an occasional stray beat that transcends the ambient label and smudges the borders between space, classical, new-age, and shoegaze by criss-crossing through them all with fluidity.

These compositions are not songs with a particular direction or agenda other than to transport the listener away from the drudgery of everyday life and into a more peaceful universe where the musical tides ebb and flow with grand oceans of ambient sonic waves. Or they could be used as soundtracks for floating through boundless regions of space while occasionally encountering a mystical new world or a magnificent far-away starburst.

Like the twin sister album titles, the songs on each disc also have companions. Track two on After The Night Falls is titled “Avenue of Shapes” while track two on Before The Day Breaks is called “A formless Path”. Tracks eight are identified as “The Girl With Colorful Thoughts” and “My Monochrome Vision”, and it continues like this for each of the discs nine tracks. The running time for both discs combined clocks in at just over 82 minutes which may explain why they were released as two shorter discs instead of one long one. But who really cares when the electronically treated guitars and piano sound this sublime!