Elegant and deep sequences overlay picturesque melodic structures that weave in and out of consciousness. Merging Berlin School stylings with Space Ambient sensibility, the Northern California duo of Craig Padilla and Skip Murphy explore new sonic territory, while keeping firmly rooted to the influential electronic music from the golden age of sequencing. Using the latest virtual instruments alongside rare analog synthesizers, this music explodes old genre barriers while simultaneously forging new sonic possibilities.
- Shadowed Transistion [11:09]
- Eternal Path [9:02]
- Sleepwalking [5:21]
- A Midnight Muse [5:32]
- Illusions [14:52]
- Phantasma [25:48]
Ensoniq ESQ-1, Ensoniq Mirage, Yamaha TG-33, Alesis QuadraSynth, Emu UltraProteus, Roland U220, Roland SH-32, Roland SynthPlus-10, Korg EA-1, ARP 2600, Sequential Circuits Pro-One (x2), ARP 2500 Sequencer, and various effects
Yamaha KX-88, Yamaha TX7, Alesis QuadraSynth Plus, Korg Mono/Poly, Korg DW-8000, Ensoniq ESQ-1, PAIA 9700 Modular, Technosaurus Microcon, Roland U220, Nord MicroModular, Absynth, FM7, Doepfer Maq 16/3, Lexicon Vortex and other effects
2006. Press information
Craig Padilla is an experienced electronic musician who already has quite a number of albums behind his name, solo or with others. The last years he regularly works together with Skip Murphy. The music they create together is a mixture between Berlin School and space music.
At the moment, there are so many electronic music albums available and (happily), there are still albums that have the ability to move the listener. Well, these gentlemen have: this is really one of the strongest albums on this field of 2006. They open spacey in "Shadowed Transistion", after which masterful sequencer lines follow that call on nostalgic feelings when artists like Neuronium and Robert Schroeder started their musical journey but it also has traces of Dweller At The Threshold. These Americans know what they are doing. The space-atmospheres are also very beautiful in "Illusions". After "Shadowed Transistion" the title track is again a great piece of work. With almost 26 minutes this is also the longest piece on the cd. The sequences seem quite simple but certainly this makes the music so fine and interesting. As a musician, you must be able to come with the idea and that is something Padilla and Murphy are very strong in.
This duo certainly make retro but not the typical "sequencer / Mellotron / synth solo music" and that is special.
'Shadow Transition' is a beautiful way to open the album. Bright shimmers float over warm, lush pads. Flutey synth makes things seem even more tranquil. By the third minute a lovely sequence can just be heard low in the mix. It is joined by a second. If you liked early Software such as 'Electronic Universe' you should love this. Just close your eyes and let the subtle pulsations and soothing tones surround you.
We follow straight through into 'Eternal Path'. Rapid sequences chase up and down the scale but as with the previous track they are not too forceful, just peaceful- meditational even. A plucked string sequence joins the others but adds to rather than distracts from the soothing atmos.
Sequences depart for 'Sleepwalking'. Deep dark drones abound. A particularly lovely one rises in waves, from silence to high in the mix.
'A Midnight Muse' keeps up the nocturnal theme but the sequences return, gently skipping along, stimulating the imagination, making me think of a refreshing warm summer-night's rain. The music increases in intensity as we go as if the night is waning and the sun starts to break over the horizon.
A similar mood keeps up as we seamlessly move on to 'Illusions'. The sequences gradually subside leaving a melodic motif to call out, to be answered each time by a short bass line. Just after the half way mark a piano meanders over the sound of crashing waves.
As we move into the Twenty-Five minute title track the backing becomes positively booming like explosions being heard from far away. All manner of effects and dark deep drones go together to form a spooky eerie atmosphere. A four-note sequence calls out and a two-note pulse replies. Both elements gradually become more prominent. A slow lead line joins in as the sequences become heavier- developing something of a snarl then morphing completely to bass intensity before really letting rip- wonderful stuff!. The lead line responds by also upping the oomph level. We finish with deep, dark, dripping malevolence. What a stonking track this is!
The sleeve notes state 'Merging Berlin School stylings with Space Ambient sensibility'. I see what they mean- especially on the last track where the sequences are aloud to develop their full belting potential. Here the Berlin School side of things probably dominates but in the first two and fourth tracks the sequences and atmospheres are more equally balanced- very Mergener & Weiser.
It's certainly a very enjoyable and skillfully produced album.
Craig Padilla is one of those rare individuals equally at home with classic Berlin school music and longform minimal ambient pieces. For every melodic album he’s done like One, he’s done something like the stark icy ambience of Vostok. Phantasma, which also includes frequent collaborator Skip Murphy, falls somewhere in the middle along the continuum, in that respect reminiscent of Padilla’s Genesis album from a couple years back.
Mellow space music pieces like "Shadowed Transistion" (sic) and "Sleepwalking" are the order of the day. Although sequencing appears here and there, it is a rather subtle rendering of the Teutonic style.
Even when it is a little more prominent, as on "Eternal Path", the proceedings remain rather mellow.
"A Midnight Muse" features an unusual metallic sound that seems to wobble ever so slightly as it ambles along. The disc finishes with two epic pieces totaling over 40 minutes. Phantasma seems too ambient for Berlin school and too active for ambient, leaving me feeling a bit lost in the middle ground.
2007. Phil Derby / Electroambient Space
In this new collaboration between both artists, we witness a careful display of electronic architectures, wealthy in nuances of sound, where Space Music shines in full power. Melodies dyed with the atavistic emotions awakened by The Unknown within the human mind, unearthly landscapes as wondrous as they are disquieting, complex rhythms that propel us into a highly risky journey throughout natural wonders, technological deeds of epic proportions, and the unfathomable mysteries of the future, are but a few of the most remarkable traits that can be found in this magnificent album.
2007. Edgar Kogler
Years of experience are showing through in the work of Craig Padilla. His many concerts and collaborations with Skip Murphy have paid off in the form of a nuanced and mature work. This duo are realizing pieces that sound modern yet come across as strong as classics 20 or 30 years old.
Phantasma (71'46") casts a dreamy electronic mood as it undercuts technology with an unexpected air of tenderness and sensuality. Its sense of drama comes not from manic leads, drop ins and quick cut key changes, but rather from the gradually increasing complexity of sequencer pattern runs. From rhythms slow, sparse and open to churning machine-like synchronization, Padilla + Murphy masterfully create a wonderful momentum. By systematically adding notes to fill out layers of cycling phrases against the motion of synthesized chords and pads, they build up, fill out and connect each of their six pieces into a well-integrated and vital sound picture.
From benign daydreams and apparitions to cosmic visions and revelations, Padilla + Murphy work within the infinity of cerebral excitation.
2006. Chuck van Zyl / Star's End
This release from 2006 features 72 minutes of slightly more lively ambience.
Stately keyboards establish a soothing climate of divine consistency, expansive and nebulous. As additional electronics surface, the gentle tone remains undisturbed. A lazy sense of vigor grows with pensive determination until the soundscape has become a lattice of gently surging tones seasoned with gurgling rhythms created by more insistent electronic patterns.
As the music continues, vitality creeps out of the mix in the form of swifter cycles and soaring tones of celestial demeanor. While still soothing, the music is adopting a more forceful manner that remains craftily repressed. Shriller notes appear, but they are not piercing enough to disturb the heavenly stability.
The title track is a 26 minute epic that embraces a more mysterious mood with ascending choral elements and darker tonalities which bestow a mystical edge to the flowing melodies. Grittier notes are utilized to attribute a seething drama that struggles to overwhelm the celestial airs with a sense of passage over an ominous abyss.
These compositions achieve a degree more vigor than conventional ambient music, but the comportment remains moderate and unhurried. The tracks maintain an amiable tranquillity regardless of their denser palette. At the same time, the music displays a strong presence, highly melodic and capable of saturating the environment with an undercurrent of animation.
Matt Howarth / Sonic Curiosity
Just to emphasise the fact that Groove doesn't release only European artists or those creating up-tempo sequencer-based music, "Phantasma" is a largely ambient production by two North Californian keyboardists, playing an impressive range of analog and digital keyboards including Ensoniq ESQ-1 and Mirage, Yamaha TG33, Alesis Quadrasynth, Roland U220 and SH32, PAIA modular system and many more.
Tracks like "Sleepwalk" consist almost entirely of slow, sweeping chordal sounds and create a somnolent, trance-like feeling, and while other tracks such as "Shadowed Transition" do featuring repeated sequencer patterns, these are more like tinkling, textural additions than deep pounding rhythms.
The closing title track does become a lot more dynamic, and at 25.48 running time is typical of the many Groove releases which include very long semi-improvised pieces.
If you prefer to set an atmosphere and lose yourself in it (or get on with the cooking or any other task) rather than having a new song start every five minutes, this kind of material may well be your bag.
2008. Mark Jenkins
Est-ce que je parviendrai un jour à ne pas apprécier une production Groove? La réponse, à de très très rares exceptions près, est tout simplement non. Et la présente galette issue de la collaboration des deux Californiens Craig Padilla et Skip Murphy ne faillit pas à la règle. En mélangeant les plus récents instruments virtuels aux bons synthés analogiques, nos deux compères explorent de nouveaux territoires sonores tout en restant profondément enracinés dans le sol ensemencé par les groupes de l'âge d'or des séquenceurs. Il en résulte une musique tenant à la fois de l'école berlinoise des Klaus Schulze et consorts, et des voyages space/ambient de leurs compatriotes de Dweller at the Threshold.
Encore un excellent album d'e-music, si vous en doutiez encore.
LouLou / Prog-résiste