It’s extremely difficult to listen to ‘The Pavilion of Dreams’ and not feel guilty and out-of-place. Guilty because it’s rare you hear something that sounds so annoyingly fluffy. Out of place because you look down and wonder why you’re not in the bath. Harold Budd and Brian Eno’s ‘The Pearl’ is one of the best ambient records ever; a deep well of imagery and emotion (minus the pretentiousness of that last description) and their ‘The Plateaux of Mirror’ was almost as good. What separates those records from this is that ‘The Pavilion of Dreams’ is all about prettiness and abandons anything memorable or substantial from the word go. Plus, this is less of an ambient record and leans more towards neo-classical or minimalism. The 18-minute opener ‘Bismillahi ‘Rrahman ‘Rrahim’, features a soprano sax, twinkly twankly glockenspiels and subtle humming keyboards. It depends on your outlook; it’s either a perfect thoughtful soundscape of a view of a huge bright-lit city from a window of a silent hotel or it’s a nauseating aural bubble-bath fit for TV property programmes or less. I’m personally in the middle; the more you hear ‘Bismillahi ‘Rrahman ‘Rrahim’, the more details there are to pick up on and it is pretty good if you’re in the right mood, but then again it’s often sugary enough to make you grind your teeth with frustration. The real turd on the cake however comes in the form of the ‘Two Songs’ medley/thing; a cliched-as-holy-hell vocal and harp piece that just begs to be thought of as pretty when it is instead, irritating. The next track (whose title is way too long to mention) is pretty similar but it includes glockenspiels (Oh lord! Save us from the glockenspiels!) and the same female vocal that makes you want to throw yourself under a pneumatic drill just to deaden the sound. Final respite comes in the form of ‘Juno’ (that’s the Roman Godess not Ellen Page’s pregnant teenager). Flowing pianos and light background percussion and marimbas, all adding upto something that is almost passable, unfortunately, it’s still dull. In fact, it’s all dull bowing to nearly every cliche in the book. It’s really nothing special. In fact you’re likely to hear more involving and interesting music in the average lift. Anything remotely note-worthy is drowned out by the sheer lack of anything interesting.
Stephen Fry once said that nothing that thinks it is beautiful is beautiful. ‘The Pavilion of Dreams’ thinks it’s beautiful. Enough said. Harold Budd would move onto greater things, but like Alanis Morrisette’s early girly pop days or Moby’s stab at Smashing-Pumpkins-esque rock, this is a blot on his reputation and a frighteningly bland one at that.
Listen to this: …?
Key Track: Bismillahi ‘Rrahman ‘Rrahim