Ian William Craig


130701 FAT 13-22 CD
  • 2LP : Includes Download, Gatefold Sleeve
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‘Centres’ is the stunning new album from Vancouver-based vocalist / composer Ian William Craig, and his first release for FatCat’s 130701 imprint (Max Richter, Hauschka, Dustin O’Halloran, Jóhann Jóhannsson, etc). ‘Centres’ is actually Ian’s ninth full length album, the majority of which were self-released digitally or in limited cassette editions. His last two full lengths (‘A Turn of Breath’, 2014; and ‘Cradle for the Wanting’, 2015) were issued physically on the excellent Californian label, Recital Program and received glowing press and placements in numerous critics’ end of year lists (including Mojo / NY Times / Rolling Stone).

Ian William Craig is a trained operatic vocalist who combines his voice with analogue synthesizers, reel-to-reel machines, and faulty tape decks to create sublime cascades of unpredictable decay and beauty. His music engages with the operatic and orchestral, submerging them under a shifting palette of vocal improvisations, analogue tape hiss and billowing clouds of erasure.

Fundamentally distressed yet texturally lush, ‘Centres’ is an immensely deep, rich and rewarding listen. It was recorded in an assortment of studio and other locations across his Vancouver hometown – in concert halls and classrooms, train-yards and live rooms, as well as Craig’s own home – and created using a mixture of sources: synthesizer, Hammond organ, guitar, accordian, wire recorder, loop station, Craig’s array of re-purposed vintage reel-to-reels and an 18 deck “cassette choir”.

“Everything was manipulated through my customised tape decks,” explains Ian. “The most common hack is putting attenuators on the heads to keep them from functioning properly, and then running a loop of tape through so the sound builds and builds and spills over. Sometimes the same tape loop goes through two or three decks at once to create strange deteriorating delays with different colours. I also circuit-bend the bias to create odd kinds of distortion, or bend the sound back into itself so it feeds back in unpredictable ways. Most of the rhythmic elements on the album were created with this feedback loop technique.”

For Craig, this use of reel-to-reels has become both a way of decaying sentimentality, and a recurring metaphor. Drawing out analogies between his dual practices of music and print-making, Ian’s work is deeply informed by a narrative of impermanence, of “notions of life as an act of becoming, and beauty within degradation and deterioration.” He became fascinated with the notion of what the process of memory might physically sound like, placing his own body at the centre of this exploration to create sonic spaces that cast physical deterioration as the source of the sublime. “Tape affectation has been a really generative thing for me, and I really value not just the aesthetic texture that the tape decks impart, but the creative gesture they allow as well. They interject a certain randomness, a certain loss of control … It is my hope that through such performances, the sound of this forgetting can be momentarily manifested.”

Continually honing and pushing this process, the album shows a thoroughly brilliant attention to textural detail. Morphing, swirling, scouring, shimmering, it continually expands and contracts around you. Forging a harmonically gorgeous and utterly immersive listening experience, it pulls you from the rousing, slow-build of the opening ‘Contain (Astoria Version)’ through the standout ‘A Single Hope’ with its huge bass and Hammond organ swells, into shifting cloud-zones of ‘Drifting to Void on All Sides’ or ‘Power Colour Spirit Animal’, around the Nico-esque accordion opening of ‘The Nearness’, and back to the cyclical ending of ‘Contain (Cedar Version)’, one of the cleanest and sparest tracks here – pared back to the purity of a single voice and guitar.

Ian William Craig: Centres

Contain (Astoria version) Ian William Craig
A Single Hope Ian William Craig
Drifting To Void On All Sides Ian William Craig
The Nearness Ian William Craig
Set To Lapse Ian William Craig
Power Colour Spirit Animal Ian William Craig
Arrive Arrive Ian William Craig
A Circle Without Having To Curve Ian William Craig
An Ocean Only You Could See Ian William Craig
Purpose (Is No Country) Ian William Craig
It Need Not Be Hopeless Ian William Craig
Innermost Ian William Craig
Contain (Cedar version) Ian William Craig

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