Ian William Craig is a trained operatic vocalist who combines his voice with analogue synthesizers, reel-to-reel machines, and faulty tape decks to create sublime cascades of unpredictable decay and beauty. His music engages with the operatic and orchestral, submerging them under a shifting palette of vocal improvisations, analogue tape hiss and billowing clouds of erasure. As well as a talented musician, Craig is an award-winning printmaker. Originally from Edmonton, he began playing live under his own name in 2010 in Vancouver, where he currently works at the University of British Columbia running the printmaking studio for the fine arts department. Though classically trained and grounded in the choral tradition, Craig’s early albums were concentrated predominantly around the piano, with his voice merely a marginal presence. In recent years, however, his practice has come to focus increasingly around his powerful voice, as can again be witnessed on his latest album ‘Centres’, his first release on Fatcat’s 130701 imprint.
Fundamentally distressed yet texturally lush, ‘Centres’ is an immensely deep, rich and rewarding listen. It was recorded in an assortment of studio and other locations across his Vancouver hometown – in concert halls and classrooms, train-yards and live rooms, as well as Craig’s own home – and created using a mixture of sources: synthesizer, Hammond organ, guitar, accordian, wire recorder, loop station, Craig’s array of re-purposed vintage reel-to-reels and an 18 deck “cassette choir”.
“Everything was manipulated through my customised tape decks,” explains Ian. “The most common hack is putting attenuators on the heads to keep them from functioning properly, and then running a loop of tape through so the sound builds and builds and spills over. Sometimes the same tape loop goes through two or three decks at once to create strange deteriorating delays with different colours. I also circuit-bend the bias to create odd kinds of distortion, or bend the sound back into itself so it feeds back in unpredictable ways. Most of the rhythmic elements on the album were created with this feedback loop technique.”
Watch the video for ‘Contain (Astoria Version)’ below;