Consider nature the big, pink metaphor for Robin Guthrie and Harold Budd’s (fraternal) twin albums, After the Night Falls and Before the Day Breaks. Not so much in the sense that the latest collaboration between the Cocteau Twins co-founder and the famed composer supports evidence of a “natural” pairing. Rather, their latest work reflects and embraces nature as a model for making music. In the environment, they have seemingly found an anchor and a conductor for their writing.
Guthrie and Budd structure these records around organic sets of order and relationships, such as cycles and cause-and-effect. Much like nature’s established courses, they link each album through predetermined themes and narratives: One album’s “How Close Your Soul” is “responded” to by the other album’s “How Distant Your Heart.” However, sensitive to the affect of our presence, the two use these ideas to guide their playing. They take advantage of instrumental music’s ability to obscure ego and follow these ideas instead of exerting their selves atop them.
Guthrie and Budd play tenderly with each other, and neither rises to the top until the swelling close of Before the Day Breaks, when Guthrie’s strumming transforms into his trademark throbbing layer of goo. Much like their recent turn on the score to Mysterious Skin (2005), the music here sounds full-bodied and robust yet feels unobtrusive and incidental. These albums are a terrific demonstration of how convenient the truth of our surroundings can be when we simply embrace it.
Robin Guthrie: http://www.robinguthrie.net/