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  • Writer's pictureSylvain Lupari

Padilla & Allen Weathering the Storm (2023)

A monument of EM and a great source of auditory pleasure

1 The Prodigal Sun 18:54

2 A Matter of Time Part 1 3:02

3 Aquatic 7:44

4 Sunflowers in the Wind 4:37

5 Weathering the Storm 10:12

6 A Matter of Time Part 2 1:46

7 Onwards and Upwards 8:59

8 Liquid Heaven Part 2 5:55

(CD/DDL 24Bits 61:13) (V.F.)

(Cosmic Rock Berlin School)

Here is the 3rd collaboration between synthesist Craig Padilla and guitarist Marvin Allen. I can venture to write that this WEATHERING THE STORM is the album that closes a trilogy started with Toward the Horizon, since the first part of Liquid Heaven Part 2 also closed this album released on Spotted Peccary in 2019. But it doesn't matter! These 3 albums allowed us to observe attentively the evolution of the 2 musicians in an environment where the Berlin School style crosses with the tip of its complexities the soft borders of a progressive New Age. If Padilla's synths always sculpt electronic ambiances that ride the rhythmic impulses of his sequencers, Allen's structures always shine with this melodic vision of celestial reveries where his guitar scatters its nostalgic dreams in purplish horizons. Reflecting the very beautiful Daniel Pipitone cover where this time, there are 2 girls under an umbrella. And if Strange Gravity was superior to Toward the Horizon, WEATHERING THE STORM is the pinnacle of a collaboration that my ears and my soul wish would never end.

The Prodigal Sun begins with slaloming winds. They howl with sound particles in their timbre while unifying their howls with long laments of an electric six-strings filled with torment. These winds contort around a horizon beautifully depicted on the album cover. A few vintage electronic effects, of which there are very few on the album, and swirling effects stigmatize the atmospheric vision of the track, creating a mass of sound that stretches out long drones. Bass chords, falling with a regularity that distance betrays, weave dramatic modulations as Marvin Allen's hand-sculpted howls amplify an intensity felt from the opening of this longest track on WEATHERING THE STORM. And gradually, this slow opening melts into a 70's psychedelic universe before the sequencer brings The Prodigal Sun out of its atmospheric turmoil, just before the 6th minute. Tracing a rhythmic figure that zigzags slightly, the sequencer's cadence is heavy and lively. The hurried step of the bass sequences resonates with a growling effect in its envelope. Percussions solidify the rhythm's anchor, while another sequencer line invigorates its flow. A chthonian haze completes the illusion of something done by Tangerine Dream at the dawn of the '77 tour, while Marvin Allen's guitar tortures this sustained rhythmic flight into copper and ether-scented synth layers. The duo leaves the land of vintage Berlin School to migrate to a solid cosmic progressive rock of the same era where the guitar is even more screaming with intensity and the synth deploys its arsenal of electronic effects, including those winds that whisper like specters lost between 5 decades. Those winds howl a little louder and a little higher in the opening of A Matter of Time Part 1. This meditative track flows into the boundaries of a Zen New Age with a nice melancholic duel between the 12-string acoustic guitar and the piano. A Matter of Time Part 2 is of the same style, piano less. Aquatic was conceived as a tribute to the title Aqua from Edgar Froese's album of the same name. The sound effects and the structure of the music fit perfectly since the duo reversed the piano keys and the organ layers. Allen's guitar, very dominant in this album, crumbles chords throughout the track where the duo has recorded the beginning of a tornado, which never fully formed, for the atmospheric canvas of Aquatic. So, we hear heavy rain, tire rolls on soaked pavement and rumbling thunder. The result is a very intense track, as long as the impression that water dripping in our listening room is not far from reality!

Composed solely by Marvin Allen, at the request of Chuck van Zyl for a Star's End Radio show devoted to artists who remained productive during the pandemic, Sunflowers in the Wind was recover by Craig Padilla for WEATHERING THE STORM. The track fits here and Craig's arrangements of it make this track a moving and intense testament to the situation in 2019. It's a track in the same mold as A Matter of Time Part 1 where the guitar makes weep its emotions over an initial acoustic guitar texture. The electronic portion is frozen by beautiful synth layers and especially a sequencer that scrolls luminous arpeggios against the nostalgic vision of the guitar. Each track of this album scrolls like a small jewel to put in the ears, and the title track solidifies this perception. After an atmospheric opening guided by guitar chords and the presence of a bass that extends dramatic impulses, we are in the territories of Pink Floyd, Weathering the Storm reveals a very good ascending procession. A line of bass sequences goes up. Its intensity resonates in our ears and its vibratory effect camouflages the second structure of the sequencer and its moiré arpeggios that twirl on the spot. The guitar still dominates the album's panoramas with bits of harmonies, riffs and chords lost in the intensity of this whirring procession. Its solos and emotional laments, some of them furious with rage and passion, and those, more discreet, of the synth embellish a structure very close to the roots of Berlin School. Onwards and Upwards is of the same seed as the excellent The Prodigal Sun and the title track. Perhaps a little more daring and progressive, the music is still inspired by the same era. Some long, half-human, half-beastly howls coming from a giant horn buzz feed its opening which is drenched in howling winds. The impact is cinematic-apocalyptic! Double pulses from a bass-drum and a dance of sequences stimulate an ambient rhythm that the guitar decorates with faint chords rolling in loops. It is the winds and their dissonant nature that dominate this first part that takes refuge in those howling winds about 20 seconds before the 3rd minute. This intense atmospheric phase floods our ears for a distance of 2 minutes before the rhythm gradually resumes its circadian beat in one of the rare phases of more electronic atmosphere of the album, including effects from Klaus Schulze the pre-X era. The guitar remains the key element of this track with some good solos that make you think of David Gilmour hidden behind a heavy velvet velum. Liquid Heaven Part 2 concludes this last episode of Padilla and Allen with an ethereal passage, maybe a little less celestial because dark and gloomy, in the same way (meditative atmospheric structure) that Liquid Heaven concluded Toward the Horizon 4 years earlier.

WEATHERING THE STORM is a monument of EM, a source of auditory pleasure which monopolizes our ears as soon as The Prodigal Sun starts to make its first breaths moan. The rest is only wonders and enchantments. Padilla & Allen delivers here an album without smears. There is no second of lost in this musical ode, the mastering of Ben Cox is breathtaking, which links the Berlin School and the progressive cosmic rock to more ethereal passages, testifying to this fascinating complicity which went growing and which binds the 2 musicians since the beginning of this marvelous adventure started in 2019. Magnificent on all the line!

Sylvain Lupari (February 28th, 2023) *****

(NB: The texts in blue are links you can click on)

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