Ian William Craig somewhat returns to his tremendously loved 2016 album Centres with an EP that relocates some of those pieces onto voice, piano and acoustic guitar, with just a few licks of subtle tape manipulation lapping at the edges. Slow Vessels proves that Craig’s songwriting is just as powerful when it stands naked as when it is wreathed in fuzz magic. 12” on 130701.
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“Go on: defend this” were the words of my cattishly picky editor Clint upon listening to ‘Slow Vessels’ in office. Reworks make him squirm; acoustic music that isn’t exactly to his taste is apparently bad. Fine, I’ll defend it: this is a very good droner coming to terms with being a very good songwriter. Having moved ever so slightly away from the tape deck acid bath and operatic fragments on ‘Centres’, this follow-up EP sees Ian William Craig attempt to realise his experiments as songs. And frankly: it is nice.
Those of you looking for the looping forgettings of Craig’s Recital records are going to be a long way from home, but these pieces still have that lilting ambient texture to them: they’re recorded on what sounds like a dusty tape deck, the production hissing like a humid rain intervening from outdoors. With little more than chords on acoustic guitar or piano, the songs have the same suggestions of drone, with “The Nearness” and “A Single Hope” meandering into the distance much like one of Richard Youngs’ alt-country ghost ambles. “The Nearness” is resolved on a heavily distorted yawn of noise, suggesting Craig isn’t so much going full indie rawk guy as he is clarifying a few things about his sound.
And some of the reworks, which Clint refused to let us get to in our office listen, sound totally lovely in their new form: “Purpose (Is No Country)” is a severe and church-like monolith in its original form, but here it’s plucked and cooed like any one of the hundred times “Moon River” gets played on a fire escape in ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’. And “Contain”, in its third and final form, bridges the gap between the autotune scraps of its original and the reprise like acoustics of its second version -- here it becomes a lucid blur of drain-circling piano and elapsed vocal. All treats for fans of our Vancouver noise crooner.
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