Ian William Craig – Centres (FatCat Records, 2016)


Make no mistake, this is the most dense, most affecting, and most elusive of all of Craig’s records. It’s also the darkest journey since the bubbling distortions of A Forgetting Place (the forerunner of A Turn of Breath) and you will find that no amount of written text will ever totally satisfy the complicated scope of this crushing collection of pieces.

“I will not contain you at all” he aptly croons in auto-tuned opener “Contain (Astoria Version)”, and then alongside an intimate guitar solo in finalé reprise “Contain (Cedar Version)”, two very different sides of the same coin sandwiching the record in their promises of irrepressibility, granting unlimited space to the pieces to come. That space is not meant for us of course, it’s meant for the elusive “her”, a promise of reparation and deeper understanding to stem the tide of relational damage. The early pieces naturally feel helpless in this regard, as “Drifting To Void On All Sides” swims in papery distortions and frail reverb, the lack of container initiating a freefall into an ominous vacuum of uncertainty for the future.

It swims into the accordion serenades of “The Nearness”, a sweetly resigned ditty unfolding into an uncontrolled collapse of kaleidoscopic abandon, vision burnt with fiery fragments of accordion and static boulders before washing up on the impossibly beautiful “Set To Lapse”. Melancholic, it reaches out in shimmering tones like a mirage of desire, yearning for a loving touch.

“Take my hand

Out of nowhere”

Its tired loneliness is the turning point and begins the good fight back: after the muted Hammond organ “Arrive, Arrive” the mid-album behemoth of “A Circle Without Having To Curve” begins with darkling menace. “Confine you” he whispers, suddenly mysteriously at odds with his former sentiments, blustery darkness lost to confused and unsettled passages of thrumming static pulses, like a stormy night eroding and erasing the landscape, wiping the slate clean. Eventually the abrasions abate in follower “An Ocean Only You Could See”, light on the endless horizon of the mind unveiling a more luxurious dronescape, awakening to a new and renewed love and the promise of tomorrow.

Slowly the dust begins to settle and “It Need Not Be Hopeless” anymore, the same dramatic swatches of vocals and static quieting down as we begin to approach the end, filled with a definite sense of thankfulness that hardships are passing and normalcy is beginning to return in cooing breaths, haunting sequences that feel the spirit level settle back to centre. At last we find peace and are granted that little victory lap in penultimate “Innermost”, squeaking out in fractious completion.

The change for the better is sudden and inexplicable, an almost telepathic communication relayed outside the scope of the music yet satisfyingly resolved within it, the course resetting with great drama and an appropriately refractory restart back to craved normality beyond it as they find the sum of their parts again, the centre of their Venn. How powerful a motivator the threat of collapse is.