utorak, 16. prosinca 2014.

Ian William Craig - A Turn of Breath (2014)


Zapadna civilizacija nije zasnovana na potiskivanju nagona, seksa, ili žudnje, nego na potiskivanju sublimnog, tvrdio je Roberto Assagioli. Sada, kada se sublimno vratilo, to se može i dokazati.



Recital here presents the premiere LP by vocalist Ian William Craig (b. 1980, Edmonton). Ian, a trained opera singer,  delivers an elegant balance between theatrical and ambient sentiments. A Turn of Breath combines the essence of a choral LP from Angel Records or Deutsche Grammophon with the spontaneity of experimental home-recording.
This collection holds twelve works for voice and 1/4″ tape, recorded from 2011-2013. Voice appears as the Sun’s light through a vast storm; still obscured by tape malfunctions and manipulations. A system of reel to reels is employed, which yields a lovely sort of morphing repetition. Each iteration crumbles as more harmony is placed on top, residual tones spilling off the sides into nothingness.
Craig’s innate ability to sing beautiful, sorrowful melodies carries each track. The pieces on A Turn of Breath vary from grand choral meditations to quiet interludes, and even a few impressionistic ‘songs’ accompanied by faint acoustic guitar. An overarching warmth resonates through each side, making this a very pleasant listen. A suitable compliment to a pot of coffee in the morning or a glass of armagnac in the evening.

The decaying, slippery throng of voices just under our primary internal psychoauditory narrative. The sounds heard coming in from out on the street, the way they then loop, stretch, and dance within the mind. They play out, tear up into shreds, and dissipate. After a silence of some time, we say “oh” aloud. “Oh!” Sing a line of nonsense. You can sing anything! The noise is sucked out and away, but may be analyzed within, spun into hay and burned. The lungs explain. A dog barks and disappears. The blue light of a UFO slips into soundwaves and becomes a hum. The hum becomes a fractured voice, finds a body with two lungs, vocal cords, a head. The body of a person in a forgetting place, a forgetting voice as it ages now.
The same place once occupied, perhaps, by Morton and Joan, singing against self.
The same place, perhaps, occupied by Brian, singing profound trivialities,
or William, letting loops survive death as ghosts. Elegies for themselves.
A breath explains its vibration. The words have no meaning against the sound.
Don’t listen to A Turn of Breath without modifying yours.
Inhale slowly, hold for some time, exhale slowly,
host breath.
Ian William Craig pulled breath from night and made a voice. - Ben Roylance

I have no idea who Ian William Craig is. “A Turn of Breath” was suggested to me in a Facebook thread a few months back when I was looking for new music, and after a quick listen of the YouTubes, I decided to jump in and Jesuuuus, am I glad I did. Ian William Craig, whoever he is, has unequivocally made the most disarmingly vulnerable and downright beautiful record of 2014, and I won’t take any lip from any heartless Philistine normies who say otherwise. Essentially a hermetic marriage of Antony’s haunting vocals with the grace and tonal characteristics William Basinki’s Disintegration Loops, Craig’s record revolves around his choir boy voice and the layers of analog entropy that threaten to tear it asunder at every turn. But like all good overdrive pedals, plugins and techniques, the distortion and noise serve to highlight the rich harmonic tapestry on display here, filling out the stereo spectrum with all manner of wonderful sounds both present and perceived. They also provide the counterpoint to Craig’s mournful melodies, as if he were a captain going down with his doomed ship. The result is a structurally minimal but emotionally and philosophically complex album, best left for solo headphones sessions and bittersweet rainy days that hurt so good. - Troy Micheau 

As I struggled to find words suited to describe “A Turn of Breath,” the latest album by Canadian composer/performer Ian William Craig and the first to be released by the burgeoning California label Recital Program, the one that came to mind repeatedly was palimpsest — strictly speaking, a manuscript in which rubbed-out portions remain vaguely legible; more generally, something that has been altered or reused, but still betrays evidence of its origin.
It’s not a precise fit, but it seems to suit Craig, who uses open-reel tape decks (and maybe other arcane devices) to layer strands of reedy, churchly tenor and falsetto voice, occasional instruments like acoustic guitar and harmonium, and found-sound ambiences. Bending his circuitry, Craig renders the music muzzy and indistinct; his sound can call to mind a worn-out tape from your childhood, a shortwave transmission from overseas, or a 78 rpm shellac from which distant voices emerge amid the crackles, awash in ethereal luminosity.
Craig’s pieces, most of which range from three to six minutes in length, can sound like high lonesome folk songs (“Red Gate with Starling”) or bedroom-recordist soliloquies (“Rooms”). The most ambitious compositions, like “Second Lens” and “The Edges,” evoke troubadour ballads preserved on metal platters, launched into deep space, and then carried back on unstable waves.
Purple, I know. But little else conjures the modest sublimity of Craig’s achievement. Recital Program pressed only 500 LPs, including 125 colored-vinyl copies with a 22-minute bonus CD-R. Tarry and you’ll miss out on one of the year’s most magical recordings. - Steve Smith

This album is pure beauty – probably one of the most stunning and powerful releases I’ve heard in the past few months.  Ian William Craig is a trained opera singer who, on this album, uses tape malfunctions and manipulations as well as a system of reel-to-reels to obscure and manipulate his voice in interesting ways.  The contrast between the beauty of his singing and the way that the tapes can pull it apart and re-assemble it in interesting ways is the main technical focus of the album.  But, on a more basic level, these are powerful works that manage to convey sorrow, hope, and heartbreak all at once.  The way that many of these droning, beautiful chords, and harmonies disintegrate into noise or static is very reminiscent of William Basinski’s “Dissintegration Loops,” while the vocals are part-Beach Boys part-Bon Iver.  The high points of this album will stop you in your tracks and haunt you in your dreams.- kspc.org/a-turn-of-breath-ian-william-craig-album-review/
One of the most beautiful covers we’ve seen all year graces one of the year’s most elegant recordings.  Sean McCann’s Recital label is not known for playing it safe, and on this release, the label stretches its wings even further.
One would not normally expect to find an opera singer at A Closer Listen, but Ian William Craig is the rare exception.  The reason: this isn’t opera.  A Turn of Breath is instead an exploration of the human voice, paired with its highest aspirations.  Craig’s tones are pure as prisms, steeped in sadness and yearning.  On this work, his voice is layered, reverberated, distorted and filtered through reel-to-reel tape.  Choral elements abound, but this is all Craig.  At times his voice comes across like a sunspot, at other times a solar flare.  It’s the sound of a voice on the other end of a bad connection, straining to get through; the signal sputtering in a dust-laden atmosphere; the glimpses of the spiritual that start to dissipate as soon as they are seen.
Flip the script and one encounters an entirely different recording.  Instead of signals trying to break through, one may hear the indomitable nature of the human spirit.  The voice represents the purity of humanity, attempting to plod forward, accumulating dust and detritus, sorrow and anger, guilt and sin.  And yet the feet still stumble onward, even against a stiffening wind.  This latter interpretation is supported by the arc of the album, which allows more clarity to break through as it progresses: first words, then phrases, and finally, in the closing tracks, stanzas.  The effect is cathartic; after a long struggle, the burdens fall away.  The tether has been cut; the spirit is free to rise.
The press release calls A Turn of Breath “a very pleasant listen”.  But it’s so much more than that.  This record possesses the potential to reach the soul.  Few very recordings are able to plant seeds so deeply.  To the mournful, it may come across as solace; to the broken, hope.  What is pure is eternal.  This is the sound of the eternal attempting to reach us; but it is also the sound of our own sullied nature: a scratched and clouded surface that hides a kernel of light.  (Richard Allen)

No recording in recent memory has evoked the work of Akira Rabelais to a greater degree than this premiere album by Ian William Craig, a trained opera singer born in Edmonton in 1980. In fact, had I not known beforehand that the material I was about to hear was by Craig, I would have guessed A Turn Of Breath to be a new release by Rabelais, for the simple reason that Craig manipulates his singing in a manner reminiscent of the way Rabelais, using his Argeïphontes Lyre software, reconfigured tape recordings of traditional Icelandic a cappella singing on the 2004 release spellewauerynsherde. Just as the outcome on that recording straddles medieval and modern eras, so too does Craig's, even if it relies primarily on his voice to achieve its effect.
In the case of A Turn Of Breath, Craig obscures his singing using tape malfunctions and manipulations and a system of reel-to-reels, resulting in something that suggests on the one hand a home recording experiment and on the other a formal solo vocal recital. Available in two editions (375 on standard black vinyl and a deluxe edition of 125 pressed on infused purple and tan wax and supplemented by the CD-R EP Short of Breath), the album features twelve pieces of song-length duration recorded between 2011 and 2013.
The opening “Before Meaning Comes” can be regarded as representative of the album in the way Craig's voice is only sometimes recognizable, given the extent to which it's been altered by treatments. If anything, A Turn Of Breath often plays as if man and machine have been melded together into some Cyborg-like mechanism, with each component dominating at different moments. And while a unifying sound design is evident, Craig wisely varies the presentation so that a choral piece such as “Red Gate with Starling” is followed by a setting like “Rooms” where a starker arrangement for voice and acoustic guitar is deployed.
The results achieved by Craig can be strikingly beautiful, especially in those moments when his plaintive, high-pitched voice is least obscured and the melodies are at their most sorrowful. When that happens, the effect is akin to the illuminating warmth of sunlight breaking through oppressive cloud cover. If the listener comes away from the recording wishing anything had been handled differently, it would be for the album to have featured a greater number of moments where his voice in its most unaltered form is heard, as happens in “Either Or,” a mesmerizing choral setting, and “A Slight Grip, A Gentle Hold (Part II),” a folk setting that's as memorable for its vocal arrangement as its harmonium playing (or at least what appears to be harmonium). All possible caveats aside, Craig, using the most minimal of elements, has produced a startlingly well-realized and oft-haunting recording, and that it's a debut makes the accomplishment all the more impressive.  - textura.org
The first time I listened to “One Half,” the third song on Julianna Barwick’s Nepenthe (2013), I lost my shit. I admit that sentence probably sounds very stupid: Barwick, the operatic singer responsible for that record of New Age wonder, is not the kind of person who makes shocking music. Her records sleep under the tree-line, hover over the clouds, and elicit other metaphors about natural landscapes you can better understand by consulting an image search for “ambient album artwork.” Her voice feels unperformed, a vessel that never really begins or ends, but becomes quieter the further away on the wind it goes from you.
But for a second there, she came too close, and she began to sing.
The reason “One Half,” the centrepiece of Nepenthe, was so shocking, is that Barwick sang a lyric, as if she were the actual human being websites interview and add the [laughs] signifier to when she laughs. “One Half” sounds like Barwick finally came to life, woke up, and stepped forth from the scenery. In modulating her music as significantly as she did on “One Half,” it feels like Barwick broke a rule. Here, I take “broke” quite literally: her records are long, sustained journeys, but “One Half” is piecemeal, a decided-upon fragment in an otherwise unwavering composition. It still feels like it belongs on Nepenthe—in my opinion, it completes it, taking the Icelandic scenery the record is based upon and lightly treading on it—but it’s a moment. Barwick isn’t usually into those. I am, though: I want the moment where a melody or sound starts up again.
A Turn of Breath, the new album from choral singer and tape dude Ian William Craig, likes to start up again. It reminds me of a hundred other records made up of beautiful ambient fragments: of Nepenthe, of course, and the moment Barwick finally thinks aloud; of the Fun Years’ Baby It’s Cold Inside (2008), where the tape crackles like an endless trail of logs being thrown on a fire; of New History Warfare, in which Colin Stetson plays with sax obstructions ‘til he’s fit to burst, but mediates moments; and of the Caretaker’s An Empty Bliss Beyond the World (2011), which uses found sounds to fill an empty space that people must have once lived and loved in. That Craig sounds like all of these records, where things happen as specks in space, is not a slight; how could it be, when I’m able to find comfort in all them? Craig doesn’t remind me of the ambience, but of warmth, of the moments where artists open up and offer us something. When they stop sustaining and begin to sing.
That Craig’s record is called A Turn of Breath is important, I think: each sound gets its turn to be made, be it surface level tape hiss, sustained choral hums or noise glitches—but each sound also gets turned over. Craig’s use of reel-to-reel tapes makes for a record constantly spinning out old sounds to reveal new ones, allowing only minimal space for his melodic affectations, which get cast out against meditative ambient washes. It sounds like some sort of Disintegration Loops shit on the surface—sound can loop and loop, and still won’t live forever—but Craig finds delight in that realisation, making a record of elegiac melodic peaks. A Turn of Breath is never still, and doesn’t capture sound like a typical ambient soundscape would. Instead, it pluralises it, and treats each moment of brevity as a different type of beauty.
More than that, though, the phrase “A Turn of Breath” is a reminder of Craig himself, the tangible but temporal force who breathed so these sounds could exist. Primarily an operatic singer, he lets the stature go. Instead, he slots into ambient like another instrument, ripe for melodies and motifs and landscaping. He’s happy to loop himself, reduced to a field recording that becomes briefly clear and elucidated before crumbling back into the collage. When he does appear full-bodied and fully human, it’s only so we can let him go: on “A Slight Grip, a Gentle Hold (Pt. 1),” he comes the closest, singing with an unexpected gruffness that demands his realness. But that realness—that harsh, trembling voice, unable to be expressed in the rest of the record’s visualizer dream state—disintegrates. Like Barwick opening up and singing one lyric before become particles again, Craig’s voice is a ten second loop in a cosmic universe that will always come around again, carrying none of the same sounds.
So we just glimpse his voice, and the few words that come with it: “I allow my heaviness.” And like the most fleeting encounters, we take him from it: he is what we recognise, what we can remember for a lifetime when it’s only been thirty seconds. With his small, humane contributions, Craig sounds like a ghost no one can prove is real but reveres anyway. It’s obscene to think he even wrote those lyrics—his words can’t be ingrained, or even crossed out—but when they come out clearly, the way Barwick’s did, they seem like true vignettes: never explained, never concluded. These words are not to be eulogized. Like the rest of A Turn of Breath, they’re to be released. You should probably never listen to it again. But you probably will.- Robin Smith

Not since Julianna Barwick’s Nepenthe last year have I felt this attached and empathetic to an Ambient Pop record; comprised of 12 tracks it reworks ethereal vocals and minimalistic lyrical content through cassette tape manipulations, crushing human and acoustic drone into a lo-fi fabric that weaves emotionally fraught and confused pieces from air. The beautiful opener “Before Meaning Comes” delivers this sound perfectly in smooth, fluidic stutters of thin glitch lines before delicate vocal filaments light up and coo through the warm static currents, so small and light and naive. In fact, the first three pieces follow this charming innocence before reality strikes; “On The Reach of Explanations” ensconces its angelic vocal lines in echoic distortions, speaking introspectively to the inside of a quiet mind before turning its Cantu-Ledesma-esque smooth drones into choppy and decayed fragments. Then “Red Gate With Starling” rounds out this initial trio with angelic beginnings as its human songs shine softly outwards, slowly unravelling and falling apart as its gentle loops fray and tatter.
It’s this that instigates the onset of the lonely rest of the album; “Rooms” is one of a couple of acoustic guitar lead pieces that crushes its lyrical content in aural obfuscation, its message buried and hidden away, too shy to come to light. But it’s largely an interlude, a bridging piece; “A Slight Grip, A Gentle Hold, Pt. 1″ and then a little later Pt. 2 hold the key to the melancholic heart of this album.
“I allow my heaviness
a slight grip,
knowing something has shifted”
The first truly discernible lyrics peek out of the oscillatory tape malfunctions and speak of weariness in the face of change, of allowing sadness a little ground in the internal struggle. Part 2 is much like its predecessor but the lyrical content comes in straight away and alone, intimate and unafraid; it’s the first real clarity we get to witness and it’s striking as a result. Thick accordion drones melt in and heighten that downtrodden vibe in their sombre and slow motions, collapsing abruptly at the end and revealing the abandonment of caring as fading footsteps shuffle out of the desolate static. It’s a sign of the heavy resignation much of this album conveys; “Second Lens” sees the world through another set of eyes in its obscured and muffled electronica, soft Barwick-esque coos and sighs floating through the thickening fog before our eyes, while “Either Or” settles on weaving juxtaposing deep and soulful human thrums against more eager and active cries, at war with oneself. “I thought I was a hero”, Craig says with a heavy and resigned heart.
The heavy and damaged “The Edges” is not far removed from that indecision and confusion either, spinning around in a whirl of warbling, dense drone lines and fragmented vocal snippets, a blur of emotion and passing faces offering judgment and advice, none of it helping. So it’s up to closer “A Forgetting Place” for us to find solitude and internal peace; the second of the two acoustic guitar tracks it’s wholly more intimate as it allows us one last parting song, just between us. It’s heartfelt and minimal, the words unintelligible and distant despite everything, but the pained yet angelic coos alongside the tempered strums in its final throes are all we need to realise catharsis before we hear the guitar being put down and the album with it.
This is an album that uncovers more and more and yet divulges less and less with each listen, every spin managing to hold onto its confused jumble of emotional secrets whilst somehow offloading more onto the listener in its myriad of damaged tape transfers and ethereal vocals. Barwick taught me that the human sound can be expressive and exploratory, but Craig has shown me that it can be every bit as elusive and enigmatic and difficult to vocalise as our internalised thought, no one sound referring to one emotion, no set of sound representing hosts of feelings. This may be one of the best Ambient records of the year, simply because it puts itself on the line and opens its heart and head to us. Incredible.- Hear Feel

Voices, either softly spoken or delivered with a harsh growl, have the power to spark deep emotions on the ear. With this in mind, it’s a wonder how few artists in the ambient/noise game mine its obvious potential; Ian William Craig’s latest album A Turn of Breath makes confident strides in this pursuing the quality of the voice.
Craig’s voice exists in the same way Barwick’s ghostly echoes successfully dwarfed the atmosphere of Nepenthe. A place where words were rarely decipherable, though human voice undoubtedly the source of its majesty.
Craig opts not to limit himself to vocals only as tape loops, guitars and field recordings splatter the canvas of his world, though never in a way you would stop to notice a particularly cool guitar riff or vocal phrase. Cohesive immersion is the aim here and it largely succeeds.
On the Reach of Explanations’ begins with the repeated click and whirr of what sounds like a record player, signifying the conclusion of a side. Here it serves as introduction to a chorus of Craig’s looping and ethereal, noisey vocals. Some sound peacefully serene, while others bear the distorted grit of hallowed static. Together, they combine for some of the most perfectly orchestrated moments of melancholy and sanguine noise this year.- Jack Payet

Tiny Mix Tapes (blurb)
Anti-Gravity Bunny
Life is Noise

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