Howard Givens / Craig Padilla: Being of Light
Spotted Peccary Music

In creating Being of Light, Howard Givens and Craig Padilla aspired to “musically express the state of awareness that comes through the discovery of one's ‘inner being' and pure essence.” A lofty goal perhaps, but if anyone would seem to be capable of achieving it, it's Givens and Padilla, who collectively bring decades of experience to their second full-length collaboration.

Givens, with more than thirty years of ambient electronic production under his belt, long ago mastered the technical demands necessary for realizing his musical goals; much of his energy, then, is directed towards achieving an organic result that's rich in emotional expression. To that end, he augments his electronic arsenal of vintage analog and digital synthesizers with acoustic instruments, such as piano, guitars, and percussion. Like Givens, Padilla draws upon decades of experience in ambient electronic production, uses vintage analog and digital synthesizers to generate his material, and is careful to ensure technology never displaces the human dimension in his creations. Rather than denying the traditions out of which their work arises, the two honour their forebears by invigorating that tradition in their productions.

On this latest collaboration, the two create a long-form soundscape that's as voluptuous as it is immersive and enveloping. Though four tracks are titled and indexed, the recording generally plays as a deep, seventy-minute travelogue; said indexing isn't imposed arbitrarily, however, as there are subtle contrasts in tone and sound design that emerge between the sections.

Being of Light takes little time to establish its expansive soundworld, starting as it does in “Clearing the Mind” with a brilliant palette of pulsations, whooshes, and synthetic textures. That aforementioned acoustic dimension also doesn't take long to declare itself when piano chords enter the scene two minutes in, an effective contrast to the deep electronic character that otherwise dominates. Eased expertly into the soundscape, the listener relaxes, content to luxuriate in the harmonic mass Givens and Padilla provide. One of the recording's most appealing features is the modulations in density that occur, with the creators alternating between multi-layered panoramas and calm, stripped-down sequences where the focus shifts to grand piano. “Threads of Thought” subsequently opens with softly murmuring swells that form a ponderous base for delicate guitar textures that, much like the piano in the first track, grow progressively more dominant as the piece advances.

As satisfying as those initial settings are, it's the album's thirty-minute third track, “A Contemplative State,” that is its towering achievement. The way Givens and Padilla maintain flow and sustain interest over the course of its half-hour duration is nothing short of remarkable, especially when the number of elements they work with is relatively minimal. Stretching out without seeming end, church organ-like chords intone dramatically and blend with synthesizer tones to form a large-scale drone whose subtle ebb and flow suggests the glacial movements of some massive galaxial entity. Slight dissonances emerge in the clustering of elements to add mystery to the atmospheric effect, tones occasionally swoop and pitch-shift in a manner similar to a steel guitar, and the trance-inducing close impresses as particularly transporting. The peaceful ambiance of that five-minute ending carries over into the closing title track, whose gently floating melodies end the album on a quietly radiant and even wistful note that suits the recording perfectly.

However grandiose a conception it might appear on paper, the collaborators' envisioning of the album as a “topology of energy,” where the individual constitutes a single entity that's at the same time aware of its connection to the universal whole, feels successfully realized in sonic terms. Being of Light is ambient sound-sculpting at its finest, though that shouldn't come as a total surprise when one considers the calibre of talent involved in its creation.

October 2017