Michael Padilla — Atmospheres (Ambient Works Vol. 1)
(Fruits de Mer strange fish seven, 2015, Picture Disc+CD)
by Henry Schneider, Published 2016-01-10
Front man for the US neo-psych band The Soft Bombs, Michael Padilla, stretches his musical muscles by recording a full album of ambient music. This music is so out of character for Fruits de Mer that Keith Jones elected to release it on their experimental sub-label Strange Fish. To add to the experimental aspect of the music, Keith also decided that it was time to issue their first picture disc. Fully recognizing the sonic limitations of a picture disc and the expected criticism from vinyl junkies, they are including a CD with the four tracks (one is an extended version of the vinyl track) plus a bonus track. Michael’s compositional approach on this solo album was to learn from the master Brian Eno and his ground breaking Discreet Music. Michael used only a sampler and a loop pedal to create constantly shifting and morphing soundscapes. Each track was spontaneously composed and performed in his studio on May 26, 2014, December 29, 2014, December 30, 2014, January 10, 2015, and January 12, 2105. The promo only contains the four tracks on the LP, so that is where I will focus my attention. Side A opens with “Northern Lights.” I have never seen the Northern Lights, but the constantly shifting and floating nature of the music is the sonic equivalent of the aurora. Though there is some uniformity of the music, the constant shifting maintains your interest throughout the track. The second track is “Crossing East.” This is a slow electronic piece that reminds me of Fred Becker’s Inner, Stellar and some of Roedelius’ ambient works. This is ambient electronic music, but nothing like Tangerine Dream. There are no pentatonic sequences or Hollywood soundtrack riffs. Side B opens with “Ecstagony,” and a dark drone intro similar to early Tangerine Dream. Think of Alpha Centauri, Zeit, or Atem. However, over its 15 minutes the drifting chords tend to brighten a bit and the music approaches Inner, Stellar again. The closing track is the three-minute “The Waiting.” This dark ambient track is in the bass register that eventually is overlaid by a bass melody line. The CD version contains an extended version of “Crossing East” and the bonus track “Dark Matter.” Quite a departure for FdM and an impressive album package. The uniqueness of this release is sure to make Atmospheres an instant collector’s item!
Related artist(s): Michael Padilla
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From the press release:
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water takes from Echo Us' past and spins it into a whole new direction, one closer to traditional acoustic Celtic music than ever before.
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water was composed and recorded during the first few months of 2017. Although Celtic influenced and comprised of a number of re-workings of Irish folk tunes and Breton aires, the album is still in large part new and original Echo Us music that fits right in the Echo Us ‘canon’. “Wake” is a natural progression from “A Priori Memoriae”, which was released to critical acclaim in Europe in 2014.
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water is Echo Us’ ‘Celtic’ album that was planned for a long time but never executed because of the work on the trilogy that came before it. The album title is a typical ‘Echo Us’ play on words which one can find their own meaning.
“It is also both evocative of the Oregon rain, which I am told is not too unlike the rain in Ireland.”(Matthews)
To Wake a Dream in Moving Water is also a comment on conception- which was unintentional when the lyric was written. Matthews surprised himself a few months after writing it, realizing that the song was actually about the nitty gritty, biological workings of what happens when a child is conceived. The folk song it derives from musically describes a courting ritual, one that even today we can all relate to in our own way.
“Come With Me Over the Mountain" in acapella was the musical inspiration for the song, and came into my consciousness after the lyrics were written a few months prior. “ (Matthews)
As with all Echo Us recordings, a number of seeming coincidences resulted in connections being drawn where prior there were none. Another experience of similar capacity was found in oboe samples from A Priori Memoriae that echoed the traditional “May Morning Dew’, also reworked for guitar on the new album.