Weathering the Storm – Spotted Peccary Music SPM-9104
On Weathering the Storm, I hear space music that really does seem like it comes from another planet and provides a musical experience that touches my sonic nirvana. Thus, once again, the borders of conceivable electronic music had just been re-extended yet deeper into uncharted territory. Each faithful homage and bold new experiment add into expanding what human dreaming can work with and materialize into soundscapes, supporting many phenomenal journeys from early psychedelia, to unparalleled use of sequencers and trailblazing new technology, to space ambient, to electronic rock, to soaring cinematic soundscapes and collecting into an ever-growing maelstrom of possible soundtracks for the moving images of your imagination.
1. About the album Weathering the Storm
Weathering the Storm is music that honors life. With the collaborative participation of graphic director Daniel Pipitone, it’s a soundtrack album for the continuing story of the “Umbrella Girl” who, one might say, represents all of us looking for our own way of existence in this complex world, navigating synthesizer winds and electric guitar firestorms, and reflecting how we gravitate towards others. There are many things going on here; Marvin Allen has said that the Umbrella Girl is on her journey toward the horizon. Along the way, she encounters a strange gravity and now she is weathering the storm on the way to finding friendship, to finding others like her, and to finding the place where she belongs.
The winds blow, the beasts call, the forces gather, and from there things go deep. Craig Padilla and Marvin Allen use very little studio trickery and have taken the sound “old school” sometimes slow and dreamy, sometimes burning, exquisitely layered, haunting our ears with a slow agony of shadows, filled with fabulous illusions and unaccountable phenomena, often encompassing a number of extra sonic dimensions. Weathering the Storm starts off as an homage to pre-1975 Berlin-school/Krautrock music.
Marvin plays some rhythm guitar in the style of the opening track of Edgar Froese’s “Macula Transfer” album to complement the main sequence and overdubbed some lead guitar. Craig uses an organ sound and his analog modular synth, with some old-school effects, much like the musicians of that time would have used. Weathering the Storm brings an array of layers of the expressive guitar held up into the sky by the electronic enchantments. There is space activity that continues to discover new ideas, building across the frightening vertiginous depths while dodging the presence of gigantic flying objects overhead.
2. The tracks
The first track is the biggest…
…beast; it allows the duo to stretch their arms and more fully grasp the expansive krautrock genre. The sound sends me swirling in the winds of supernatural dreams, sequencers which flutter and eventually form layers of rhythm taking off in a cosmic gallop. “The Prodigal Sun” (clocking in notably at 18:54) has a koan-like twist in the title. My innocent spellchecker insists the spelling is Son and not Sun, which opens up stories about fiery spheres again returning and asking for mercy. The guitar is a strange metallic and spectral wind, a gale force electronic wind that is blowing and pushes everything to the limit, a wide atmospheric sound, utilizing both the beautiful and the awesome.
I love the sound of a 12-string acoustic guitar in deep space, “A Matter of Time part 2” (1:46), silvered with iridescent synthscape masterpieces and on into multiple breezes of mist with floating shadows. “Aquatic” is a tribute to Edgar Froese’s 1974 title track to the album Aqua. The song contains sounds of the rain and thunder that Marvin recorded during a night that they had the first tornado warning in that part of California. The tornado never completely formed, but the overhead cloud funnel and the winds and rain made for a truly unique mix.
Marvin says, “I like to use found…
…sounds and I didn’t want to let this opportunity to record the storm pass me by.” This storm system yielded great results for the audio. (And various images of this storm were submitted to Daniel Pipitone for his consideration to use for the cover art.) We recorded our tribute to Aqua by using recorded rain, reverse piano, organ, and bubbly/chirpy synth sounds. Like the end of “Aqua” (the song), “Aquatic” finally ends with some trippy sounds to close out the piece. The roaring engines of big trucks passing by on a wet road reminds me of the jets flying by on the third track of Froese’s Aqua album, “NGC 891.”
The feeling is blissful floating out there, “Sunflowers in the Wind” (4:37) was commissioned by Chuck van Zyl for a special “pandemic edition” of Star’s End Radio which featured new music by artists who were staying busy during that time. Marvin had written the original melody and recorded the guitar track in my studio. With all of the turmoil happening, Craig had forgotten about it until Marvin reminded him to check it out again.
He says, “I was so impressed by its beauty; I jumped at the chance to add synths to it.” Marvin says, “It’s dedicated to Paula Franke (a foreign exchange student from Germany who was staying with the Padilla family) and her “sisters” Melodee and Harmonee Padilla. For me, the title symbolizes these young ladies. Although the winds of this turbulent time blow around them, their roots will help them to stand strong. In the end, when the wind subsides, they will still be reaching upwards towards the sun and continue to grow.”
Now for the title track, secure your…
…strongest headgear and boots for another tribute to early krautrock/kosmische music titled “Weathering the Storm,” where Craig plays a mellotron sound and analog synthesizers while Marvin plays melodies on an electric guitar and plucked a 12-string acoustic guitar in sync with synthesizer sequencer patterns, creating an organically hypnotic effect in the music, encircled by magnificent howling synths which move in the sky.
The next track brings a superb hypnotic and a minimalist sequential movement, an acoustic guitar in deep space, “A Matter of Time part 2” (1:46), a very short follow up invoking the previous track, should they be played together? The specific tracks are not sequenced together but by intention they connect, and you think about comparing the two tracks as a whole. Or just wonder.
For many centuries, outer space, with its infinite number of galaxies, stars, moons, and planets, has been an inspiration to the arts. “Onwards and Upwards” (8:59) reaches into a strange and vast territory. Imagine that the reverberation is an instrument, feel the power and wonder abound, guitar and drone abide, enter the piano. Now bring on a pulse. Life is good. The final track on this aural odyssey is titled “Liquid Heaven part 2” (5:55) and could be a spiritual continuation of a track from the first album Toward the Horizon.
To me, listening constantly, the feeling is blissful, floating out there encircled by magnificent howling synths. They move in the sky and fill the air like a cloud of floating and ambiguous tones that come into focus. It is a atmospheric track that may or may not have been will always remain a mystery, part 1 and part 2 are on different albums, but instead of just being two different tracks, these are intended as a pair, two parts making a whole.
Something truly beautiful is being played out in the dreamy organic side of space rock, synth, guitars, and enchantment. Weathering the Storm is a superb continuation of this long cosmiche music history, mind and soul is present in each of the tracks, seamlessly musically mutating into something completely different. Marvin reminds us that “This music does lend itself to visualizing space” and talked about his personal roots with influences including Robin Trower, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, David Gilmore, Brian May, and Andrew Latimer of Camel. “The biggest impact on our music has been the way Craig’s influences mix with mine,” says Marvin.
4. Where to buy the album Weathering the Storm?
Written by Robin James, February 16th, 2023