CD: When The Earth Is Far Away
Artists: Craig Padilla /Zero Ohms

Having recently written a feature article about Craig Padilla’s CD masterpiece, The Heart Of The Soul, I was excited to hear of his latest recording project. Entitled When The Earth Is Far Away, the album is a collaboration with electronic musician and wind instrument virtuoso Richard Roberts, who records under the name Zero Ohms. Their previous albums together include Path Of Least Resistance and Beyond The Portal. Craig Padilla is an award-winning keyboardist/ synthesist with a prolific career as a recording artist that includes more than 40 releases over the past 20 years. His style embraces the influence of classic spacemusic from artists such as Vangelis, Tangerine Dream, and Jean Michele Jarre while keeping up with the latest advances in music technology. Ancient and modern come together in the music of Zero Ohms as he combines Anasazi Pueblo flute, Hawaiian nose flute, and Irish tinwhistle, with wind-controlled synthesizers in the making of this recording. Since the 1970’s he has been involved with research into ethnomusicology and the psycho-spiritual effects of music in addition to playing over fifty various flutes, saxes, and other woodwinds from all over the world. Together they embody one diversely talented dynamic duo.


One of the most unique aspects of their artistic partnership is their style of working together on this recording – given that they live in different parts of the country. According to Zero Ohms: “An interesting quality of this collaboration, distinct from those previous, was that Craig and I didn’t merely add parts to a track sent by the other. With processing, each brought out things and qualities in the other’s tracks that their creator had been completely unaware of. Like a sculpturing in sound.” Craig adds: “It was the first time that Richard Roberts and I have manipulated each other’s sounds to create new tones.”


The album is crafted around a theme that is part science and part science fiction…  the journeying forth into the vastness of space to find a distant world to call home. In Craig’s vision: “ It explores both the inner and outer realms of space, and the physical landscapes of alien worlds that we may explore someday either by way of physical travel or by creating the worlds within our own mind. The combination of electronic synthesizers and acoustic wind instruments creates a hauntingly beautiful and dream-like aural soundscape.” Fellow synthesist Skip Murphy provides additional instrumentation on two tracks. Rare in the analog and digital world of ambient electronic music are traditional wooden instruments such as the Anasazi and Hawaiian flutes, which were custom made by master flute makers for Zero Ohms. In his words: With its breathy voice, rich with whispery overtones, the Anasazi or pueblo flute is the closest thing to an American version of the Japanese shaukhachi flute that there is.” His playing is guided by what he has termed the Tao of Zero Ohms (literally: way of no resistance). As Craig acknowledges: “Richard’s contributions of his unique wind instruments play a huge part of the unique spacemusic sound of this album.”


Interestingly, because of the electronic processing and effects, it is sometimes a challenge to distinguish what is a flute, a wind instrument, or a synthesizer. Craig elaborates: “Indeed, the sound sources and individual instruments disappear deep into the spacescapes, and all that remains is the music.” He goes on to describe the music as creating: “a warm, cosmic, floating atmosphere with slow-moving organic waves of sound.” And to my ear, that certainly paints an accurate portrait. The album opens with the title track and right from the beginning we are enveloped in that “cosmic floating atmosphere.” A sense of being far away, adrift in the universe is perfectly conveyed. Words like “spacious” and “expansive” describe the feeling of this piece as long sustained tones are punctuated by subtle and spacey electronic sounds. The first track segues seamlessly into the second without a pause to break the mood that has been created, one that is reflected in the song’s title, “Timelessness.” I found it especially interesting to hear the flute being used in a context like this, creating billowing diaphanous clouds of sound rather than more intricate melody lines.


Ethereal winds sweep the sound field in a track called “Strange Storms.” Zero Ohms has created a beautiful music video for this track that can be seen at this link: It is a surreal envisioning that ranges from celestial to terrestrial, and provides an excellent example of the music on this CD – definitely worth checking out. The voyage continues in an unbroken continuum into “Blue Distance,” where images of an alien ocean are conjured as the piece drifts on. A track entitled “Dream Travel,” opens with a repeating keyboard arpeggio reminiscent of Phillip Glass as layers of astral atmospheres are added, creating a trancelike ambience. The album comes in for a landing on the final track, “Terraforming.” As presented in the description of the theme, the mission was to find a habitable planet for colonization, and the terraforming of it is the final stage after the long search. There is a sense of journey’s end as the music, while still quite otherworldly, conveys a somewhat more grounded energy.


I appreciated the way that each song flowed into the next, making the album feel like one continuously evolving soundtrack, morphing through different dimensions and planes of existence. Craig Padilla and Zero Ohms have created a magical mystery tour that takes the listener beyond the bounds of the life that we know and into their vision of a brave new world. The composers of this flight of fantasy sum it up like this: “Whether the epic journey through space that inspires this music is a possible reality or just a dream for the future, When The Earth Is Far Away pays tribute to the age-old feeling that we – the human race – as a manifest destiny, belong in the stars… to the stars.”