It was just last year that Harold Budd released what was supposedly his final solo recording in Avalon Sutra, a warm and lovely piece of his usual ambient piano pieces. During his long career, Budd worked with everyone from Andy Partridge (XTC) to David Sylvian and Brian Eno (among others) and this newest release finds him teaming up with electronic artist/producer Eraldo Bernocchi for an epic album (seven tracks and almost seventy-five minutes running length) of real beauty that finds the minimal piano lingerings of Budd backed by the rumbling electronics of Bernocchi.
Before I'd listened to Music For 'Fragments From The Inside,' I had honestly never even heard of Bernocchi (who hails from Milan), but apparently he has scored both film and TV projects and collaborated with artists such as Bill Laswell, Mick Harris, and DJ Olive. Recorded in an open courtyard, the release starts out with a found-sound feel as you can hear people milling about and hushed whispers even as Budd starts his first quiet twinklings on the piano. Eventually, the voices hush, but quiet noises still linger into the track and the long piece mainly serves as a quiet mood-setter before things start moving even more.
"Part 2" (all tracks are simply named) opens with Bernocchi layering minimal percussion and low-end rumbles while a stuttering vocal loop is clipped and provides yet another rhythmic element. Eventually, the playing of Budd enters the mix and the dark swirling electronics feel like a perfect offset to Budd's sparse style (even when the rhythms really start cracking with sharp snare hits and middle-Eastern influenced percussion). The two collaborators work well together on the release, trading time back and forth as Bernocchi builds up a solid groove (as on "Part 3") before they start working in tandem and likewise Budd gets several stripped-down places where he can shine and add his own touches to gentle ambience.
With seven tracks that run at a minimum of eight minutes running length, there are definitely places in the album where the two seem to get stuck in noodle-land, but there's a lot less filler than one might think given the range of their palette (mostly slow to mid-tempo low-end rumblers with piano touches). When they really lock in together, the two manage to create compelling music that manages to breathe with space and at the same time be evocative. Considering the release was created to accompany a video installation, it's a highly successful pairing that often extends beyond what one might expect from art installation backing music. One of the better electronic ambient releases that I've heard this year so far.