Effortlessly graceful and dreamlike, Music for 3 Pianos is quintessentially Harold Budd. Admittedly his two partners in music should not be ignored but it is clearly Budds input that is the greatest: the floating, hauntingly minimalist piano style and lyrical drift is his alone. I have nothing by either Ruben Garcia or Daniel Lentz, though Lentz has recorded on the Cold Blue Music label (as I believe did Budd briefly in the early 80s), the music of which mirrors Budds slightly in its haunting simplicity and minimalist approach, with soloist often multi-tracking their recordings (similarly they are usually about 20 minutes per CD). In many ways Music for 3 Pianos sounds like a multi-tracked album. The three pianos could often be Budds playing overlaid on two base recordings to generate additional depth.
Thus the sound of the rather short EP is one of considerable depth and it has a warmth about it that permeates the six pieces, some of which seem almost like fragments of dreamlike beauty, cascading slowly and drifting into your subconscious. Ah, but heres the rub: the EP is just that: barely 22 minutes long it is not an album that you can easily sit and allow yourself to drift away to unless youre unafraid to use the repeat button and as with so many of Budds albums the repeat button is a must, as it allows his music to drift in circular motions, generating an atmosphere of quiet, minimalist glow throughout the room whilst it plays.
Pieces, such as The Messenger sound like Budds best work on La Belle Vista, his album almost entirely improvised (which was recorded unbeknownst to Budd) and has that similar elegance, that similar simplicity. Its hard to appreciate Budds spectacularly subdued talent without ever listening to his music. There is something intangible in it and even when he reminds you of others, such as Philip Glass in the opening piece: Pulse Pause Repeat, it is always entirely Harold Budd. Perhaps pieces such as Pulse Pause Repeat were influenced by Glass more simple piano works, and it would make sense as they have a lot in common, though Glass work is certainly more rhythmical than Budds. Nevertheless, they are artists engaged in almost life long aesthetics that in general leave you either hypnotised or bored. Equally, La Casa Bruja is reminiscent of Michael Nymans soundtrack to The Piano, though more restrained but just as beautiful, if not more so for the restraint. Some artists are at their best (such as Beethoven) when at their most passionate. Budd is at his most beautiful when his passion and his artistry and his playing are at their most taut, most otherworldly, most ambient, most minimal as it evokes the most lyrical moments from him.
Despite the brevity of the CD and of the pieces in general, Music for 3 Pianos contains what is possibly some of Budds most beautiful and beguiling work. Pulse Pause Repeat is a glorious introduction, sucking us in with staccato drifts of piano, in a style slightly out of the ordinary for Budd, as it is more structured than usual. Nevertheless, because of its difference it attracts the attention a little more than usual for Budd and he then slides us further into the music on La Muchacha De Los Suenos Dorados that utilises more clearly Budd sounds. A simple, haunting refrain stabilises the pieces, creating a sense of continuity whilst elegant occasional keystrokes and moments of flurries of notes wander lyrically over the surface as only Budd can.
Iris follows suit, though with many more of Budds trademark silences wherein a note is struck and is allowed the peace and space to die away before short, lyrical rhythms enter hypnotically into the mix and here we really hear the additional warmth of the two additional pianos, as in stereo they add texture and atmosphere either side of Budds lead. In many ways, like the background ambient textures in Budds solo work, Garcias and Lentzs piano work often fulfils a similar role.
Somos Trees is almost slightly reminiscent of Philip Glass Mad Rush, and has more rhythm to it than many a Budd piece. Again all 3 pianos are clearly in appearance and provide a short two and a half minutes of beauty. Shimmering notes chime clear and pellucid about the others, forming a tender environment about the listener. Again the piece of decidedly restrained but almost passionate in it quiet approach of beauty. An elegant piece, despite its length it stands out as perhaps one of Budds most gloriously lyrical and warmly human pieces of work. Something other about it catches you and perhaps it is the shortness of the piece that really leaves you so stunned. Here is something very different and yet so similar for Budd and we are given almost a peek at something unusual for him and that is enough. Any more may blind us to its beauty perhaps?
The Messenger is classic Budd, floating piano over warm textures, and like Iris the textures are brought in by the accompanying playing of Garcia and Lentz. Its lovely, even if recognisable. But perhaps the final track, La Casa Bruja, reminding one a little of Michael Nyman and again being a slightly more unusual Budd track (though, again, entirely recognisable), and Somos Trees being a little Glass like we require the stability of The Messenger between pieces. For La Casa Bruja really does have a passionate edge reminiscent of Nymans music from The Piano and the Piano Concerto that grew from it. But as I say this is not derivative music at all, its instantly recognisable as Budd and again it is the captivating interplay between the three pianos that cause the piece to have more apparent rhythmical energy than normally we would expect from Budd. Its another absolutely gem within Budds body of work. But then the whole short album is beautiful and certainly a gem. One could but only have hoped for something longer, not because the repeat button is not enough but because more of the same and more of that which is different could and probably would have been wonderful: neither a shock to the system nor a repetition of all that Budd has done before.
OK, ignore the price, but if you cant then find Music for 3 Pianos at its cheapest and snap it up, for it is in many ways a snapshot of Budds career as it does contain pieces of originality for Budd, whilst containing music apparently culled from different stages of his career, when in fact it simply and elegantly drifts in on winding hypnotic breeze across charted and uncharted music waters.
A delight, simply nothing less than a delight.
And so why the four stars: length of course. If we had but a few minutes more than five it would have been! Five, without a doubt.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Pulse Pause Repeat
2 La Muchacha De Los Suenos Dorados
4 Somos Tres
6 La Casa Bruja