PADILLA & ALLEN: Strange Gravity (2021)
Updated: Jan 27
“This album is great cosmic rock with textures of hard-rock, blues and scents of meditative New Age and Berlin School”
1 Strange Gravity 18:46
2 The Revelation 6:47
3 Friendship 11:00
4 Fractured Illuminations 9:40
5 All Around Us 18:19
(CD 64:32) (V.F.)
(Ambient Music, Progressive Berlin School)
It's with a guitar tear stretching out its Nordic lament that Strange Gravity settles in my ear. I hear the furrows of the synth marked the ambiences of this sound panorama where the horizon seems as far as the spaces which surround it. And always this reincarnation of Darshan Ambient cut in the spells of Erik Wollo perfumes the introductory ambiences of STRANGE GRAVITY until its first dramatic contact some 20 seconds before the 4th minute. Place where the landscape turns into an electronic panorama. The sounds and their nuances guide us towards lush forests, cosmic places or even in the belly of a psychedelic beast not too difficult to tame. The guitar, always lonely in its sights, loses its tears in the sparkle of the arpeggios which transform the panorama with an effusion of undulating waves. It extends chords whose suites transform into incomplete solos that the synth matches with oblong high-pitched metallic streaks while the ground transforms into a muted industrial rhythm. We reach a zone of reverberations where the Cosmos is only within earshot. It's at this place, the corridor of soon 19 minutes, that the sequencer performs his nonchalant kicks. The bass sequences are springy while the clearer ones coordinate in a rhythm weaving between the rubbery loops. The guitar drops its riffs and chords, while the synth disperses a bluish and fluty mist. Only a few seconds left and Strange Gravity explodes in a heavy cosmic rock and overlapping like a lone rider under solos that Marvin Allen sinks in the Hard-Rock that a final must put everything on the table to slow down.
Honestly, Toward the Horizon was an album that pleasantly surprised me in 2019. I expected an album that was much quieter and above all that would not visit all spheres of contemporary EM. So, I had a lot of expectation for STRANGE GRAVITY and I was not disappointed! Is the guitar more dominant? Same thing with the synths with two artists who unite and complement their ideas in constantly progressing matrices. As a result, we have peaks of emotion engraved almost everywhere in this second Padilla & Allen collaboration. This gives cosmic rock in constant movement with textures of hard-rock, blues and even funk in scents of meditative New Age and Berlin School, one must hear the finale of The Revelation, which complement each other in detours towards groove, a bit of synth-pop and classic progressive rock. In short, a very nice album with an intelligent guitar that regularly leaves its comfort zone in amazing duels with synths and sequencers. This little gem is offered as a factory-pressed CD for the American label Spotted Peccary, in a 6 panels digipack, and in a high-quality downloadable format. Marvin Allen does it again in the opening of The Revelation. His floating solos play on the curves of the angelic synth strata, crumpling in passing a possible echo which responds to his lost riffs. For his part, Craig Padilla adorns the atmospheres with an avalanche of layers, some of them strident, in a synth/guitar union which sculpts a vertical and luminous sound beam to create one of these points of intensity which regularly stands out in this album. The sequencer unwinds a spasmodic structure which twists in the rotary loops of the synth. A good bass line is detached in order to structure a more fluid rhythm, always convulsive, allowing The Revelation to transit for progressive rock à la Robert Fripp and hard-rock before reconnecting with the electronic rock of Tangerine Dream. Lots of movement and good times for 7 minutes of music. Friendship begins with a guitar weaving bits of harmonies like solo and effects that are very contemplative. It takes Craig Padilla a minute to join his buddy in an ambient jam session decorated by this harmonica that turns us upside down, while the shadows of the American synthesist bring out this nostalgia read on sparkling strings. An electronic rhythm sets in with boxed percussions accompanied by suggested hand claps. Rhythm, non-rhythm. Drone and no drone. The ambiences change as many ideas as visions, keeping Friendship in an indecision that justifies its title.
Fractured Illuminations is that kind of title that comes out of your ears. Its introduction is relatively calm with a much more seraphic outlook here than elsewhere in STRANGE GRAVITY. And as soon as the instruments weave multiple ripples and surface lapping, a burst of intensity arises. The ambiences get noisy, even thundering like the wings of giant bumblebees amplified to distortions. The music, at least what comes out of the instruments, is of an inconsistent violence for a mass of sounds in suspension. The guitar launches attacks that remind me of Todd Rungren's guitar treatments in Bat out of Hell. These ambiences calm down around the 6th minute to return to the tranquility of the opening. The ripples are still rising, but a minute before the end ... I'll let you guess what was coming! As far as I'm concerned, All Around Us is the cornerstone of this album! Against a backdrop of electronic ambiences, the guitar and the synth fix a fight between their musical and seraphic weapons. The strata of guitar and synths entwine their passion in battles of emotions that lead to aerial solos, like arpeggios crammed into a sequenced movement that serves as a musical bed for the fleeting rage of Marvin Allen. This fight between tenderness and musical poetry made us miss this radiant movement of the sequencer which undulates, ascends and descends the stages of a good ambient Berlin School that the synth smears with elements as aggressive as the guitar, but always in a panorama where the bickering is done with braces. The movement subtly increases the pace, and poof !!! We are in a great moment of EM where the sequencer carves out a rhythmic place under an impressive sound canvas. Everything calms down around the 14th minute while there are still jets of passion anchored in the emotions of Craig Padilla and Marvin Allen who, no doubt, set us a third rendezvous in music. Both Toward the Horizon and especially STRANGE GRAVITY have no reason not to.
Sylvain Lupari (January 26th, 2021) ****½*
Available at Spotted Peccary Music