In the liner notes, Craig Padilla writes about being affected by the ‘cyclical nature of our lives, and of the universe itself’ while he awaited the birth of his first child. Padilla, an underrated and relatively unheralded ambient and Berlin school EM artist, shows that using such deep musings as inspiration pays superb dividends on this, his latest recording. Genesis contains all manner of retro-goodness, combining the sequencer style of Berlin EM with some classic analog spacemusic soundscapes that hearken back to that genre's golden era of the '80s. As a Spotted Peccary album, engineering and production are flawless, the soaring and floating analog keyboards in the spacier tracks sound heavenly.
Genesis contains four songs, the shortest being thirteen and the longest clocking in at twenty-three. The opening title number (the most overt Germanic cut on the CD) is impressive, comprised of pulsing beats, flowing keyboards, propulsive retro synthesizers and a sound mix so dense that you could spend hours dissecting all the elements as they race pell-mell toward the song's conclusion at the twenty-minute mark. As with some of the ‘new’ practitioners of today's EM scene (e.g. Paul Ellis, Dom F. Scab, and Rudy Adrian, to name just three), Padilla is not interested in just re-hashing the past glories of Klaus Schulze or Tangerine Dream. Instead, while there are moments of familiarity scattered throughout this song, its slow but deliberate evolution offers plenty of exciting wrinkles and moments of ‘Cool!’ for even jaded listeners.
‘Moon Tides’ shifts gears to outer space, ushered in by deep drones and reverberating lower register bell tones, evoking a cosmos rich with mystery and beauty. Synth strings are exquisitely layered in and impart a sensation of movement through the stars. Later, there is the addition of deeply echoed piano and slowly swirling keyboards, joined even later by flutes (synth) and mellotrons and a delightfully delicate sequence of plucked strings. Of particular note is the flute and how expressively Padilla controls it, lilting gracefully against the lush textures and percolating sequence.
The last two cuts (’Ascension’ and ‘Message from Within’) are drifting, yet powerful, retro spacemusic songs. Unlike Jonn Serrie's early work, Padilla appears to have been more influenced by Michael Stearns, Constance Demby and Kevin Braheny, since the music has a lot of emotional ‘pull’ with extensive use of broad expanses of analog keyboards against whooshing tones and spacy effects of twinkling synths suggesting starfields ablaze with light. While I hesitate to use this word, a good descriptor might be ‘majestic.’ ‘Ascension’ brims with one powerful ‘wave’ of music after another coming at you. Later in the song, there is an undeniable feeling of positive powerful emotion, e.g. hope, joy, even exultation perhaps. The analog keyboards seem to sweep you up and carry you aloft (hence, no doubt, the title).
‘Message from Within’ is the magnum opus closing track (just twenty-three minutes long) and explores only slightly less transcendent sonic terrain then the previous number. I feel comfortable comparing this recording to, for example, Constance Demby's Novus Magnificat because so few spacemusic albums were/are this overtly celebratory of the beauty of the universe, a trait that is easily recognizable throughout Genesis. Comprised of an entire arsenal (or so it seems) of analog and digital keyboards and synths (chorales, strings, outer space/SF effects galore), ‘Message from Within’ also re-introduces sequenced notes and pulsing rhythms in its mid-section, to excellent effect, breaking up what could tend to be monotonous at such an extreme duration for the song.
One aspect of spacemusic, versus ambient music, is how rewarding it is to delve headfirst into and be absorbed by, as opposed to electronic ambient recordings which sometimes ask nothing more than a casual connection. While Genesis could be enjoyed while you are occupied with superficial activities, I suspect that direct listening (in a darkened room) would prove more fulfilling. In addition, the Berlin school EM aspects to the recording give the CD an exciting dual nature, so that regardless which of these two genres you are in the mood for, the CD will almost assuredly fit the bill. Genesis merits a ‘highly recommended’ from this lover of both genres.
- Bill Binkelman, Wind and Wire (Bill Binkelman)