It’s not often you get the chance to see a living legend play live in your own city so when it was announced that Harold Budd, renowned pianist and composer of ‘ambient’ music, was coming to town – even though the show was on a wet Monday night in Everton – it was an irresistible opportunity.
Budd was appearing on a double-bill, the other act being Australian improvisational trio, The Necks. My other half came along; of the opinion that it could be ‘really good, or really really bad’. She’s used to these ‘niche’ gigs.
The Capstone Theatre is lovely, a modern little auditorium with comfortable seating and great acoustics.
Budd appeared first; taking a seat behind the Steinway, looking professorial, and gently playing away accompanied by Werner Dufeldecker, who recorded, looped and treated Budd’s piano refrains. You could tell it was all done live, because one of the audience coughed loudly, and this cough was subsequently looped back, treated, and incorporated into the performance.
I couldn’t look at my other half when Dufeldecker took a screwdriver out – I couldn’t make out whether it was a Philips or slot-head – and started fine-tuning his electronic box-of-tricks. The visuals by installation artist Russell Mills were comprised of pastel colour washes, a bit like the new ‘Air-Wick’ candle that changes colours. Not mind-blowing, but pleasant and diverting, perfectly suiting the music.
The performance consisted of one long, gently evolving, piece, and the audience only realised it was over when Budd stopped playing, and Dufeldecker put his screwdriver away. I drifted off to a better place a couple of times, but that’s what ambient music’s all about.
The Necks took the stage after a short interval, a trio comprising double-bass, drums, and piano, their set also consisted of one long piece of music. It started as light and ethereal as Budd’s suite, almost ambient, but over the course of the piece it gradually got denser, darker, more rhythmic.
The gaps in the music disappeared, to be replaced by flowing, ebbing rhythms. It sounded like there were more than three musicians on-stage and when it reached a crescendo the sound was a huge, rolling barrage.
The two sets, though a little challenging, complemented each other well. Budd’s discrete piano melodies – full of light and open spaces – giving way to The Necks’ ferocious, rumbling musical leviathan.