Ian William Craig – Thresholder (130701, 2018)

Life is a grazing notion, a minor event in the passage of non-life. We are all “thresholders”, walking the fine line between existence and non-existence, just trying to make our own way before returning to elemental nothingness again. In the same way that the universe ballooned from nothingness, and our incidental lives along with it, so too does IWC’s Thresholder.

Tape machines and other ancient hardware are employed again here, like on all of his records, however Thresholder allows them more freedom to rule their own fate. Supplementing the random machinations of these dying widgets comes synth, and relegated to the backfield are Ian’s vocals, the constructions bareboned and lost to the will of these beleaguered devices. Opener “Elided” pokes reference to the lack of lyrical content here, bubbling in some subterranean analogue cavern as oblique vocal snatches press through the strange nether fabric of this living/dying piece.

Later, “TC-377 Poem” directly calls out the reel-to-reel recorder like some vintage obituary, and one of the rare moments where snatches of spoken word can be made out. Poetry bleeds through the static movements that billow like curtains of tape, writing in erasure, made to feel like an exercise in futility. Though perhaps the most overtly mournful moment here lies in “The Last Wesbrook Lament”, a reference to 2014’s A Turn of Breath and likely recorded in that era. It moves labourly, breaths parsing slowly as they hang suspended in the melancholia, precise meditative exhalations that move to clear the air as a geographic chapter closes painfully.

It is in passage, in silence, in the nothingness that Ian, that we, find purpose in. “Idea For Contradiction 1” carves almost Gregorian chanting out in a reverberant tank, lonely vocal cries excised of musical backbone hanging in the dark. They feel out of place in the hollow, empty husk, suffocatingly devoid of support; that is until penultimate counterpoint “Idea For Contradiction 2″ turns the space on its head in dizzying maximalism. Space talks back here, quantum energies buzzing and burning with unseen power enveloping us intimately, this heady reminder of the activity in our atoms beyond seeing.

And this tightrope we walk shouldn’t feel like a struggle, like a chore: this is where danger lies. Our bodies, these mortal engines, tick forward of their own volition, as heard in the heartbeat rhythms of  closing”More Words For Mistake”, replicated in the soft metronomy of the machines. Clicks and hums unwind tirelessly without conscious thought (a drone postscript here), allowing space to free the mind so it can pursue other trains of thought: like how to make our next error, or how to learn from it.

There is no permanence, everything we see and touch is in a state of temporary un-nothing resisting the nudges toward the cliff edge. Rather than stare into the abyss one should embrace the threshold, see the value it brings to the tightrope suspended above it and embrace to walk that line.