John Foxx, Harold Budd, Ruben Garcia - album reissues reviews

Landmark ambient works from John Foxx, Harold Budd and Ruben Garcia re-pressed, including Nighthawks/Translucence/Drift Music

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Bringing together three evocative ambient collaborations between two of the most intriguing, if overlooked, artists extant (the third features the late minimalist composer/pianist Ruben Garcia), this stylishly presented, three-disc vinyl package offers ideal accompaniment to a languorous sun-lounger session, chilling adrift in futurist dystopia.

An essential element of any ambient music collection.

While John Foxx had probably enjoyed more populist plaudits as both appositely angular vocalist with the original Ultravox! (that crucial exclamation point indicating their pre-Midge incarnation) and solo pioneer of Metamatic electro-pop, his role when embarking upon Translucence and Drift Music with Harold Budd in 2003 was more that of student than master. While that same year had seen Foxx release two volumes of his own Cathedral Oceans ambient project, Budd’s ambient CV was long, esteemed, and pretty well incomparable.

From studying under Stravinsky associate Ingolf Dahl in early 60s California, Budd increasingly embraced the avant-garde, explored the possibilities of minimalism and experimented with modal drones. He’d arguably already graduated from enfant terrible to elder statesman by the time he worked alongside producer Brian Eno on ’78’s The Pavilion Of Dreams. He’d already identified and fully developed his trademark ‘soft pedal’ piano style across atmospheric, minimal and discreet soundscapes the like of which Eno was corralling on his experimental Obscure imprint under the catch-all term ‘ambient’. Budd found himself ‘filed under ambient’ against his will (‘kidnapped’, as he later put it). Whether he liked it or not, he was uncommonly adept at it. Budd became the go-to guy for a stark, subliminal soundscape. Eno, Bill Nelson, Andy Partridge, Jah Wobble and Jaki Liebezeit had already come calling before Budd set to work with Foxx.

While Translucence exhibits Budd’s Satie-esque skill for capturing moods on a delicately-struck piano keyboard, synthesisers predominate on Drift Music, leaving it more redolent of Cathedral Oceans. Nighthawks, meanwhile, recorded with Ruben Garcia, is more cinematic in tone, disturbing found sounds occasionally jar the reverie to arresting effect, but overall you’re in safe hands. Ultimately, this triple set should be an essential element of any serious aficionado of ambient music’s collection, a thoughtfully presented and beautiful combination of the neo-classical and the subtly progressive. While there are areas and atmospheres reminiscent of Bowie’s instrumental Berlin period, Cluster, the Tangs and the ubiquitous Eno here, Budd and Foxx (with or without Garcia) create a singular mood that you really ought to investigate.