Craig Padilla finds the perfect balancing point between spacey electronics and heartfelt New Age piano (with an extra dash of romance) on his superb new solo release, The Heart of the Soul. The disc opens sitting squarely at the border of poppy late-80s electronic music with the infectious, dancing rhythm and into-the-cosmos breadth of “You Were Here.” If Padilla had stayed with this feel, good though it is, the disc might have soon worn out its welcome. But the moment the rich piano of “Sense of Wonder” arrives, so too comes the understanding that this is not another retro paean. Choral pads sing angelic counterpoint, but Padilla makes sure this sweet ballad’s story is told mostly by the keys–even when the piece shifts and grabs a bit of uptempo verve. Here, too, is where you get the first strong dose of the emotion that underlies the whole disc. Padilla has said in interviews that this disc comes out of a place of major personal change and fulfillment. The music here resonates the way only a soul-level connection can. (All music is personal, yes; but sometimes the depth of the source is even more obvious and affecting.) The title track shows it, too, a piano melody that would stand quite nicely on its own but which gladly pairs off with synth strings and more choral pads. “Lost in You” follows suit, with the added sparkle of a glittering sequencer line and the sudden appearance of a nice laid-back beat. One of the many strengths on The Heart of the Soul is that Padilla has not moved too far away from his spacemusic roots. It’s down-shifted a bit, taking its assigned place behind the piano and crafting backdrops for the melodic elements to play off, but it’s fully effective. Here and there Padilla pulls it to the front, as in the excellent long track “Midnight Encounter.” Tasty sequencer lines weave back and forth, energizing the moment, and rushes of electronic wind blow through and leave a nice analog chill in their wake. This one amps up the power and finds a nice stride as Padilla increases the density of his layers.
I fully expect to see this title appearing on “Best Of” lists all over the place at the end of the year. It’s not hyperbole when I tell you this is a phenomenal album. It rings with honesty, it’s downright heavy with gorgeous emotion, and it has stood up to the many repeat listens I have given it. It’s narrative, it’s cinematic, it’s equally paired between electronic and acoustic, it’s got a retro tinge but it’s absolutely contemporary. Craig Padilla has always been excellent, no question; with The Heart of the Soul, he creates a whole new level for himself.
Get. This. Disc.
Available from Spotted Peccary.