2017 is here! So of course it would make no sense whatsoever to discuss an artist who’s latest and most acclaimed work to date places its strike on last years’ calendar.
Or would it?
The coming of a new year – and, more specifically, the drought that greets the market of music releases over the subdued festive period – provides ample excuse to look back upon those albums that flattered us the most across the 52 weeks passed. And since we’re already at least reasonably established with the current music of Bowie, Nick Cave and Bon Iver, I figured I’d throw a lesser name under the spotlight that also happened to claim a favourable sum of my attention in 2016.
Canadian musician Ian William Craig has been revered by those awake to his existence for more than just the past year. However it was with his third studio (or ninth, technically) album Centres – undoubtedly assisted by the underground popularity of its serving label, the belatedly reprised 130701 FatCat imprint – where Craig landed with more considerable noise.
What makes his music unique is not just that Craig combines the unlikely formula of amplified tape distortion with classical voice and instrumentation, and to breathtaking efficacy. It’s that he’s also its sole credited composer and performer. And whilst the nearest contemporary comparisons to Centres one could conjure may lean toward the types of ANOHNI or Sigur Ros, taking into account its limited human involvement Craig’s work feels far more private, and less compromised as a result. To experience it is pure, a hugely redeemable quality much too absent amongst today’s standards.
Even more original and precious to its construct is, well, exactly that: the resources Craig laboured with to make the record and the mind fuelling its entire creative process. According to the labels’ press release recording took place in a multiplicity of unconventional locations, including concert halls, classrooms and train yards in search of particular sounds and densities to filter amongst the compositions. Furthermore, and as is unique to his palette, the majority of these recordings are synthesized and arranged amidst racks of re-purposed reel-to-reels and tape decks to create enormous, dizzying soundscapes.
The converging ambience, however unpredictable on account of the improbable vintage machinery at its helm, is, by concept at least, entirely intended. In fact Craig goes so far as to admire the random behaviour they marvellously inject, citing his concern for the music to resemble the physical process of memory.
So, being on that subject, I call on readers and writers alike to take note and please, go ahead, discover something new, and maybe make a greater allowance for the littler guys this time round, eh.
Centres is available now.