Two short pieces and two long excursions make up the floating, flying, edge-of-space pleasure that is Craig Padilla’s Heaven Condensed. Packing more than its share of pedigree-worthy old-school style blended with the ethereal, twinkling tropes of classic spacemusic, this is an album to put on and get lost in. These are the kinds of vistas Padilla explored in his superb trio of discs with Zero Ohms, and for me it’s become a release I put on quietly and just let it cruise around me. Which is not to say you shouldn’t be diving as deeply as possible into it; quite the contrary. Padilla skillfully piles and weaves his layers, and laces in a considerable amount of tiny detail work, so headphone listening reaps delicious rewards. There’s a balance at wotk on the album. The shorter pieces are more dynamic, driven onward by meaty, twanging, low-end sequencer pulses. These are where Padilla revs up the engines a little, getting us to escape velocity. It’s a comparative dynamic; we’re not talking about high BPMs or loudness, it’s just more beat-based than the long tracks. Those, both clocking in at about 28 minutes, are the points where we gape out the windows at the universe around us and try to take in the amazing view. The title track winds its way down to an incredible softness, nearly subliminal in places. Padilla gracefully lays in melodic elements in chime tones and electric spirals, creating moments of absolute beauty. I find myself stopping whatever I’m doing to just close my eyes and listen. “Heavenly Sails” opens with twisting skeins of analog sound launching across the space before settling in. Later in the track, piano arpeggios gleam brightly against the starscape, augmented with a complementary bass phrase and bolstered with angelic pads. Bordering on symphonic electronic, it adds an extra shot of romance to an already vivid scene. Both of the longer tracks have their own internal dynamic; they’re not just big, spacey pad outings. They change form, add some sequencer here and there, rise slightly in density and intensity, and settle back into the hush of a stellar wind. And it all happens smoothly and naturally, courtesy of your pilot.
Heaven Condensed is very much a No Trope Left Behind album. Everything you like about and expect from spacemusic is here, and it’s all done very, very well. Padilla is a thoughtful, deeply emotive composer and these depths of space are where he seems most at home. There are moments here that simply take you away, and there are moments that stop you in your tracks with a sudden shot of beauty. Expect this one to get a lot of loop and repeat play. You’ll give over the time gladly.
Available from Spotted Peccary.