Ian William Craig is always very welcome round these parts, and Thresholder, the man’s first album in eighteen months, demonstrates why. Those tape machines of his are put to work in the construction of an eleven-track, forty-minute sound environment. Deep and gorgeous smeared ambience, on FatCat sub-label 130701.
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All I’ve ever really been trying to say about Ian William Craig is that he makes very beautiful music. The attempts at verbosity and deep critical insight were all a lie because I don’t really know how reel to reel works and I’m not all too certain I can fathom his digital tape decks. I barely even know what note he’s hitting, half the time. But ‘Thresholder’ stands as a simple, summative statement of the man cooing operatically from within the thicket: this is my voice, and these are the sounds I like.
Specifically: disintegration. Specifically: repetition. Specifically: ambiguity. Specifically: hiss. Specifically: imperfection. Specifically: failure. These are the sounds and ideas that made each of his previous records so special, whether they were the opuses ‘A Turn of Breath’ and ‘Cradle for the Wanting’ or the bloated and versatile pop-reorientation of ‘Centres’. This record is more subtle than all that came before it, largely relying on the central tenants of Craig’s process and letting them play out. The loops of hiss and vocal are understated, and the voices that break through do so quietly, without rupture. “TC-377 Poem” is the kind of archaic, mumbled song to self that Craig’s hero Phil Elverum would make, albeit in a completely different fashion. As the record continues, it becomes a collection of (something)s, not seeking out narrative or clarity but instead favouring the stories told in letting your feelings relate to chance and perpetuation.
If you like Ian William Craig, I’m just gonna go ahead and recommend this one to you. It’s him at his most elemental, whether blown out with his environment or hauling up in the confines of a church. Once again, ‘Thresholder’ is proof of Craig’s visceral approach to experimental material. Spray it, don’t say it.
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