Below The Mountain

Craig Padilla

Below The Mountain


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WINNER - ZMR Music Award - "Best Electronic Album of the Year"
Finalist - ZMR Music Award - Best Ambient Album

About Below The Mountain


1   Currents

2   Woven Planet

3   Wandering Thought

4   Endless Road

5   Windspell

6   First Light

7   Alturas

Craig Padilla, the acclaimed electronic music veteran, is better than ever with Below The Mountain, a deep-space analog synth sequencer work. Inspired by the landscape and surroundings of Mt. Shasta near his home in Northern California, Padilla masterfully guides the listener through sweeping sonic vistas of electronic soundscapes, and across a boundless rolling terrain of pulsing sequencer motifs. Below the Mountain is a textural electronic evolutionary sound journey that delivers a contemplative, ambient, deep listening music experience in the tradition of Tangerine Dream, Steve Roach, and early Klaus Schulze.


Practitioners of electronic or space music can often times be seen as little more than technicians with the knowledge and ability to produce interesting sounds from arcane and complex synthesizers and programmed analog instruments. In the hands of a skilled practitioner like Craig Padilla, however, what is science to some becomes art. Padilla is well schooled in classic Berlin-style EM a la Tangerine Dream and Klaus Schulze, as seen on tracks "Woven Planet" and "Endless Road." With each he uses sequenced synth lines, typically at lower frequencies, to be the foundation over which other melodies and elements are painted. An over-arching mood is conjured up, often dreamy and sometimes brooding, but always clear and focused. A more ambient track is explored on pieces like "Wandering Thought" and "First Light" that will appeal to fans of Jon Jenkins and Steve Roach. The two big pieces "Windspell" and "Alturas" are both superb. On the former I'm reminded of Vangelis' 70s work with its more natural use of percussion and emphasis on melody while on the latter there's a more modern EM style being pursued, similar to other Spotted PEccary artists like Paul Ellis, though again Schulze's influence is also felt. Padilla also has a good feel for long form pieces, being sure not to disturb the overall mood while allowing room to explore variations in texture and timbre. On this album, Padilla reminds us that there is limitless potential for this sort of music, much like the vastness of space itself.

- Paul Hightower, Exposé Magazine (issue 36)

And now for something completely (relatively speaking) different. Craig Padilla’s name deserves more than just a passing nod amongst post-Berlin school aficionados. He’s released some superb space music and sequencer-driven works over the years, both solo and in collaboration with fellow sonic auteur Skip Murphy, and, more importantly, swept aside the usual Teutonic affectations in an effort to spin off from those hoary, 35-plus year old battleaxes. Yes, the vocabulary’s recognizable, but the syntax has been tweaked: the music on Below the Mountain (the inspiration of which comes again from landscape, specifically Padilla’s home around Mt. Shasta in Northern California) suggests rugged earthly embraces except that its palette harkens more towards the quantum mechanics of interstellar pioneers Tangerine Dream and Schulze. All irrelevant anyway—beguiling moments await within. Immediately appealing and subtly clever, the opening “Current” benefits from a little elfin countenance of a synth figure that invigorates the ever-shifting expanses made by well-oiled, well-tendered yet soft machines. Like a boomerang, “Woven Planet” tugs at your memory cards as it recalls the classic moments of TD’s Ricochet, gurgling sequencers rippling under bulging updrafts of graysky electronics. Padilla is able to achieve a near perfect balance of sci-fi futurism and landscape veneer: the ten minutes of “Windspell” see a return to slow tempo sequencer and chugging, Exit-like cymbal acrobatics as Padilla folds his mosaic of rhythms into thick clouds of majestic, undulating chords, 70s déjà vu all over again but brushed over with 00s gloss. The closing 22-plus minutes of “Alturas” is the real barnstormer, however, Padilla coaxing various skeins of star-twinkle, metallic dewdrops, blossoming backdrift, and, ultimately, a corkscrewing, hypnotizing sequencer pattern whose complex tangles burrow right into your cochlea. Padilla’s scored some major hits in the past, but this particular slice of systems music’s a real humdinger; it simultaneously fades back and radiates.

- Darren Bergstein, e/i Magazine, installment 24

"Below the Mountain" is a beautiful ambient and deep space offering by skilled electronic musician Craig Padilla.

Created on analogue synthesizers for the most biggest part, the concept album was inspired by the environments surrounding Mt. Shasta. This has led to seven pieces of carefully moulded in-depth ambient music with a highly contemplative, cinematic impact.

Music wise, it continues along the road Craig has been investigating on his previous releases on Spotted Peccary, but also Steve Roach and the classic Berliner School of music.

"Currents" sets off with beautiful woven textures and vintage sounds and effects, followed by some great sequencing and warm expanding textures in Roach-style in "Woven Planet".

The warm soundings of "Wandering Thought" continue in a more pastoral manner, before we move into he engaging realms and effects of "Endless Road".

The 18-minute track "Windspell" is dedicated to the late Michael Garrison (Windspell was actually the name of Michael’s record label), so it won’t be a surprise this piece contains some of Garrison’s typical musical trademarks mingled with Craig expanding, spacious sonics. "First Light" is a lush ambient interlude, in which warm blankets of textures and nice sequencing melt.

The 22-minute closing track "Alturas" features the beautiful vocals of Craig’s wife Brooke, which nicely melt with the sounds of vintage electronics and sequencing. Things start in a rather melancholic manner, but soon take off for a great cinematic voyage.

- Bert Strolenberg, Sonic Immersion

Craig Padilla is a composer with a great imagination to create music far from conventional forms, and he could perfectly do so in any style or genre he got involved with. He proves that statement in this case within Space Music and Ambient, and his works contribute fresh air to those genres. "Below the Mountain" is an inspired work that captivates the attention of the listener from the very beginning. Some themes or passages are slow, in these cases flowing between the meditative and Ambient, whereas others, like the superb "Woven Planet", have an agile rhythm, entering Space Sequencer Music. The strength of the melodies also stands out, and many of the sound ambiences turn out to be really impressive.

- Edgar Kolger, Amazing Sounds

The Spotted Peccary label has been consistently putting out great ambient, space and synth music albums. Their latest release, Below The Mountain, by Craig Padilla, is no exception. We’ve reviewed a couple of other albums by Padilla, The Light In The Shadow & Genesis. While his last two releases had more of an ambient or space music feel, Below The Mountain shows Padilla’s classic synth music side. Fans of the Berlin School electronic music of Klaus Schulze and Tangerine Dream and of the classic seventies synth music of Michael Stearns and Steve Roach will find plenty to enjoy here. The tracks on Below the Mountain explore various combinations of drones and modular-style sequences. Some, like Current and Wandering Though, have more of a West coast space music feel. Other tracks, like Woven Planet and Endless Road, have a more Berlin School feel. Woven Planet is one of the highlights of the album. It starts with a sequenced bass that’s treated with a analog tape-style sync’d echo. Over this, Padilla layers muted synth string melodies that float across the stereo soundstage. The track builds as Padilla evolves the bass sequence and modulates the bass synth filter, bringing focus on the bassline and then fading it back down. A second sequence joins the first, and they interlock and dance with their echoed reflections. The track brought Michael Hoenig’s Departure from the Northern Wasteland to mind. Another highlight is Endless Road, which is reminiscent of Thief-era Tangerine Dream. A simple bass sequence carries the track along, while other synth and percussive sequences fade in and out. The result is an entrancing, constantly shifting collage of sound. Craig Padilla’s Below The Mountain is a welcome journey through classic synth music styles that proves that they still offer a lot of room for exploration and creativity.

- Synthtopia

Veteran electronic music artist Craig Padilla's latest solo album is Below the Mountain. Utilising analogue synths the title refers to the surroundings of Mt Shasta in Northern California. The music is a modern take on retro synth styles with hints of Berlin School, and so is a change of tack from his previous ambient spacemusic album The Light in the Shadow.

A good example of the Berlin School tendency is found in the nostalgic “Woven Planet”. A bubbling sequence reminiscent of TD's Rubycon era frames spacey synth lines easing by in their different tones and timbres. Next up is my favourite piece “Wandering Thought” where synth effects humming like power cables play in the backdrop against slow organ like tones yearning or looking on in wonder at a spectacular landscape.

Ethereal whistling voices presage open the piece “Windspell” dedicated to the late fellow musician Michael Garrison. It's a track of two parts where initially a sequence of merged bleepy notes tunnels around the soundscape while licking percussion and exuberant melodies and refrains flash by. This gives way to an extended passage of drones seemingly made out of earlier sonic elements.

Bringing the album to a close is the longest and varied piece “Alturas”. The listener is taken on a journey beginning with subdued organ(ish) notes and reverbing synth pads. Growing slightly in intensity and with the addition of gentle female wordless vocals it morphs into a rhythmic sequencing passage. As though we've passed over a peak the music drops down to another ambient section before turning into a trance style complete with beats and hypnotic rhythms.

At first I thought Below the Mountain, like many EM works out there at the moment, was a good but not great work. Eventually it's grown on me; musically it's got some great moments and works well at conveying a haunting sense of a sometimes brooding and dramatic landscape.

- Dene Bebbington, Melliflua

Deep spacey synthesiser music with strong melodic content. This latest release from Craig Padilla features analogue sequencer patterns that recall Berlin school electronica, more rhythmic than his previous long-form ambient The Light In The Shadow CD. Sharp sweeps and vivid drones underlay percolating phrases and motifs that take centre stage. There are some beats in places, but for the most part Craig builds the rhythms of this album with rolling sonorous sequencer forms at times reminiscent of classic Tangerine Dream material. There are passages of less clearly structured ambience, layered sheets, gossamer textures and lucid cycles glistening, revolving, meandering. Warm and clear Below the Mountain is an inviting album, pretty in places and relaxing, introspective and expansive in others.

This jewel case presentation is fronted by a photograph of a mountain rising out of deep shadow into white cloud - simple, attractive. On the back a blurry summit and hazy sky forms a backdrop for the timed tracklist along with Spotted Peccary logo and website address. Pulling out the two panel insert, a second mountain image overlaid with the outlines of some technical equipment fills one page. Inside we find a montage that sees a panoramic spread of synths, leads, plugs and keyboards overlaid with the artist in negative - a final mountain rising from the clutter. Here are credits, thanks, a dedication and Craig's own website details.

Coming as the latest of a considerably large discography, Below the Mountain is inspired by the landscape and surroundings of Mt. Shasta near Craig's home in Northern California. This release contains seven tracks that range from just under five minutes in length up to twenty two and a half minutes. Once more Spotted Peccary is the chosen label, home now to a growing collection of the artist's music. Craig Padilla is now a well astablished name in the EM genre, known for his use of classic and vintage synths, yet equally adept at employing the latest in soft-synth technology.

- Paul Jury, Morpheus Music

Craig Padilla does not suffer when compared to his monumental predecessors. Distinguishing himself in the American musical order that birthed Steve Roach, Jonn Serrie and Paul Ellis, Padilla offers his own distinctive voice to the field. On Below the Mountain (73'58") he takes an outside-in approach. This CD captures the color and drama of Mt. Shasta and beautifully evokes the grandeur of the entire planet. Below the Mountain covers a distinctive sonic terrain on each of its seven tracks. From introspective stillness to a palpable sense of propulsion, each piece creates a unique energy. Padilla excels in the generation of engaging arpeggio patterns and the album runs through a fascinating range of polymorphous sequencer motifs. Strong melodies entwine and rise above loping patterns and whirling synthesizer effects. Rhapsodic lead lines flow through electronic bleeps as the emphasis moves to the lyrical. In a prolific career Padilla is rarely repetitive. With this work he embraces a worldly landscape, and turns in into an internal expanse.

- Chuck van Zyl, Star's End

Electronic musician Craig Padilla lives in Redding, California, in the shadow of one of the country’s most recognizable and beautiful mountains, Mt. Shasta. So really, the only surprise is that it took Padilla this long to create an album based primarily around the mountain as his source of musical inspiration.

"Currents" is a cool, mellow opening number, mostly expansive atmospheric ambience, but with a light touch on the lead synth that runs through it. It exits on the whooshing wind, moving right into excellent sequencing on "Woven Planet," a bubbly retro pleaser. "Wandering Thought" goes back into dreamy ethereal mode with a majestic touch, as warm pads and a softly percolating percussive sequence are melded perfectly together. "Windspell" swirls about, hovering in deep space, ranging from psychedelic to dark ambient. Listening to the gently pulsating "First Light" I can almost picture the sun as it first peers over the morning mountain air. "Alturus" is an epic conclusion nearly 23 minutes long, alternating light and airy passages with a more classic retro sound, the latter third featuring a thumping beat and energetic sequencing before finishing with a softer touch.

- Phil Derby, Electroambient Space

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