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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

CRAIG PADILLA: Discovery of Meaning (2022)

Updated: Feb 16, 2022

The first listen seduces, the next one becomes a story of obsession, and so on

1 Perception Stream 12:26

2 Discovery of Meaning 4:27

3 Continuum, Part 1 5:13

4 Continuum, Part 2 10:20

5 Adrift in Memory 6:21

6 Cottonwood 20:49

7 Festive Awakening 12:02

(CD/DDL 71:38) (V.F.)

(EM Diverse pallets of styles)

Like a finger touching the surface of calm water, Perception Stream spreads its rays in a motion of quietude. The waves multiply, some of them sounding more threatening, but their shield cannot parry these harmless chords of which the faint refulgence is witness of those arrhythmic beats that are heard around the 2nd minute. Quietness is already a thing of the past! The synth beams become compact sound hoops that come and go in a DJ effect on a gradually accelerating rhythm. We don't dance, but we don't dream either! The movement spreads its jerky tentacles while the rhythmic framework is in full mutation. White noises and psybient effects are attached to this pulsating rhythm where good electronic percussions are grafted. The synth throws its dose of sound effects and solos whose charms remain in suspension above this sea of sounds and agitated rhythms. The sound mass gets denser as the rhythm loses its control, bringing Perception Stream in a spasmodic phase where gradually Craig Padilla tames its tenacity to offer a beautiful line of arpeggios glittering and flashing less and less quickly after the 9th minute, bringing back this first track of DISCOVERY OF MEANING in a finale that drinks of the memories of its opening. This new album from the California-based synthesizer-musician had its roots in Oregon while working on the Mattson modular synthesizers that were used to create this album that will surprise you for several reasons. First of all, there is this palette of sounds and rhythms that span the vast expanse of Padilla's career. And above all, these composition structures that are evolving and take us from one extreme to another in a richness of sounds of exceptional quality. What you will hear here is as unique as beautiful. An album he calls intimate, because it is a celebration of life despite its health disappointments, DISCOVERY OF MEANING is a flawless production from the Spotted Peccary label and highlights a seasoned musician who has never been afraid to step outside his comfort zone. The first listen seduces, the next one becomes a story of obsession that will grow with each new listen. How beautiful music can be you will hear yourself say! The title-track offers a luminous lullaby with a slight zest of drama in the tone. The Redding's musician illuminates our ears with a magnificent carousel of shimmering arpeggios that light up our ears, as if our eardrums were hearing it through a prism. It's with this musical kaleidoscope that we travel with our dreams. But not for long! We hardly reach the 2-minute mark when the structure turns upside down to offer a nervous rhythm that quickly becomes a pulsating and jerky beat where Trance flirts with a Rave atmosphere for a distance of 90 seconds before the finale returns to the reason that made Discovery of Meaning emerge.

Continuum is a gem of the Berlin School style. The conception originated from a request by Star's End Radio host Chuck Van Zyl, who asked Padilla to write a track reflecting what an artist does to stay sane during the quarantine. Offered in 2 parts, Continuum is that track. Continuum Part 1 is atmospheric in nature with whispered hums from the musician's daughters, Harmonee and Melodee, who were working remotely with a German student, resulting in a mix of voices in a sonic broth of orchestrations blending into a vast atmospheric swirl. The result is rather sibylline with nice textures of voices on a dark ambient texture. Continuum Part 2 follows with a good ascending sequence that climbs up a scrambled oceanic layer. At first seraphic with these voices which enclose this irresistible thrust of the Berlin School genre, the rhythm develops by repetitive loops which end up structuring a more and more cadenced ascent to become a theatrical cosmic rock with these orchestrations moved by a dramatic vision. Between Bernd Kistenmacher and Michael Stearns, it's this kind of intense and complex track that we like to rediscover with each new listening. In a well of sounds and voices shimmering under our ears, fragile chords stroll by letting appear a certain melancholy in the opening of Adrift in Memory. A line of sequences immediately comes to the fore, sharply alternating its jumping keys that have that shimmering color of the well in a static and intense musical structure that spins around, like if a master of spells were stirring his sound soup. The opening of Cottonwood is filled with surrounding sounds, most of them bucolic, that Craig Padilla recorded in his backyard. A layer of resonance spreads its shroud of drones with slender shapes where stand out weeping waves and others having a radioactive attribute stand out. A piano appears in the middle of this sound pond, I also thought of Ray Lynch, and its delicate notes are lost in this maelstrom of coppered reverberations. But a pulsating element fixes our attention to our ears a little before the 4th minute. Its evolution, sullied by this focus of circular reverberations, goes softly as it carves out an underground passage to return to the surface. This cat-and-mouse game amplifies the static violence of the reverberating circular winds, as well as the nature of the pulsation, which has become rubbery and irradiated with white noises. The tone gradually metallized to a point of no return where the elements liquefy into a more seraphic broth at about 30 seconds after the 12-minute mark. Cottonwood thus returns to its design in a sonic broth where a line of sequences as jerky as in Adrift in Memory minutely chops up its last atmospheric moments. Festive Awakening closes DISCOVERY OF MEANING with layers of violins and other corrosive reverberations in that textural mix of contrasting tonal colors that surround the mysteries of this new Craig Padilla album. A cooing synth is heard over tonal water to join the violins in the stars for a delightful Berlin School phase flirting with a more ethereal vision of EDM. Our imagination forges a surreal train that crosses plains made of layers of orchestrations and synthesized harmonies in the old colors of the 70's. A kind of mix between Jean-Michel Jarre and Michael Garrison that doesn't make us forget all the genius of Craig Padilla to weave an EM where we don't have enough of our two ears to hang on to an album that will defy time.

Sylvain Lupari (February 16th, 2022) *****

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