Givens & Padilla: Life Flows Water
Howard Givens & Craig Padilla: Life Flows Water
Tonal Music is uniquely physical among the arts. Its simple mathematical foundation, based on the laws of acoustics, means it gets to your soul through your body. Out ahead of this idea are Howard Givens & Craig Padilla. Hearing them work together on their album Life Flows Water (68’40”) we may surmise that they regard themselves as musicians who are part engineer. These cosmologists of music use established tonal and modal ideas to create a unique and delicate tapestry of dramatic and emotional textures – qualities that are otherwise sacrificed in much of contemporary music. Their fascination with the inner life of tones moves Life Flows Water from the dark immensity of heaven down to an uncommonly hushed concentration. Melody, texture and rhythm are all at work to make a truly deep listening album. At nearly seventy minutes of continuous music, Life Flows Water creates a timeless atmosphere – evoking feelings of antiquity and modernity, while being neither in any direct sense. Cast in seven interconnected movements the music unfurls in the most gradual of fashion. After several listening sessions we find sound itself becoming the grammatical focus. Timbral gradations set forth eddying, floating semi-circles of slow chords – in an easy calm as variable as the clouds. Deep growling forms reach for ethereal strings, while pattering sequencer blips brighten, then darken through their repeating cycle. The compositional geometry is free of angles, such that the shortest path between two points is always a slowly spiraling curve. We are softly lulled beneath calmly radiant drones and long lines of sustaining electronic harmonies in a measured ebb and flow of sound, texture and atmosphere. This unique and delicate tapestry of dramatic and emotional textures freely alludes to the entire history of Spacemusic. Although this review may have primed the listener to expect very simple, repetitive pieces, this duo transforms this sleep-inducing genre into mind-and-ear-engaging art. Givens & Padilla embellish, shape and imbue Life Flows Water with deeply felt expression, sometimes gentle, while at others intense, but always delivered as if in intimate, personal touch with their audience. So long as they remain completely lost in the sonoral quality of their performance, how this all works will remain a mystery.