Photo courtesy of Alex Waber
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. As well as a talented musician, Craig is an award-winning printmaker. Originally from Edmonton, he began playing live under his own name in 2010 in Vancouver, where he currently works at the University of British Columbia running the printmaking studio for the fine arts department. Though classically trained and grounded in the choral tradition, Craig’s early albums were concentrated predominantly around the piano, with his voice merely a marginal presence. In recent years, however, his practice has come to focus increasingly around his powerful voice, as can again be witnessed on Centres.
Ian’s first release for FatCat’s pioneering 130701 imprint (Max Richter, Hauschka, Dustin O’Halloran, Jóhann Jóhannsson, etc) Centres is actually his 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 California label, Recital Program and received glowing press and placements in numerous critics’ end of year lists (including Mojo / NY Times / Rolling Stone). The Guardian marveled how “to be both wildly experimental and fantastically listenable is a skill that precious few people possess, but Craig has it … truly brilliant,” whilst Mojo remarked on “a blissfully disquieting choral suite, moving from the corroded cries of counter-tenor ghosts to a kind of abstract Buckleyesque hearbreak, as if some lovelorn romantic troubadour had been summoned forth from the recording of séances on old shellac 78s.”
Today Ian is sharing the album track “The Nearness” — NPR had this to say of the song:
“”The Nearness” is a perfect example of Craig’s template, and of the way he can make such a simple formula feel so alive. It opens with a lone accordion accompanying Craig’s scale-climbing croon. After establishing this intoxicating melody, Craig rearranges its DNA, morphing into soft, sweet chords, then heavy, rumbling drone. Finally, the accordion surfaces alone again, marching off into the distance. Despite all the turns, the piece seems shorter than its eight-minute duration — yet also feels timeless. It seems Craig is tapping into a well of sonic creativity that might never run dry.” – Marc Masters | NPR
Ian also heading to Europe for a string of dates in August, listen to the track and check out the tour dates below!
Ian William Craig – Centres
Aug 8th – Fuse, Bradford, UK – TICKETS
Aug 10th – Cafe Kino, Bristol, UK – TICKETS
Aug 11th – Cafe Oto, London, UK – TICKETS
Aug 12th – Glad Cafe, Glasgow, UK
Aug 14th – Flow Festival, Helsinki, FI – TICKETS
Aug 22nd – Feeerieen Festival, Brussels, BE – TICKETS
Aug 23rd – Venue TBA, Prague, CZ
Aug 24th Acud Macht Neu, Berlin, DE
Aug 25th – Jazzhouse, Copenhagen, DK
Ian William Craig
July 8th 2016
130701 / FatCat
1. Contain (Astoria Version)
2. A Single Hope
3. Drifting to Void on All Sides
4. The Nearness
5. Set to Lapse
6. Power Colour Spirit Animal
7. Arrive, Arrive
8. A Circle WIthout Having to Curve
9. An Ocean only You Could See
10. Purpose (Is No Country)
11. It Need Not be Hopeless
13. Contain (Cedar Version)
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. It was created using a mixture of sources – synthesizer, Hammond organ, guitar, accordion, wire recorder, loop station, Craig’s array of re-purposed tape decks and “cassette choir”. The songs were created manipulating tape loops through two or three decks at once to create strange deteriorating delays with different colors. Craig would then circuit-bend the bias to create odd kinds of distortion, or bend the sound back into itself so it feeds back in unpredictable ways.
Continually honing and pushing this process, the album shows a quite 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, and through shifting cloud-zones of ‘Drifting to Void on All Sides’ or ‘Power Colour Spirit Animal’, 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.
Centres is an astounding album that stands with a similarly unique sense of vision and integrity as the likes of William Basinski or Colin Stetson.