Oh, what beauty! Ian William Craig‘s second album is gossamer and glass, as gentle as music can be while still stimulating the soul. Vocal loops swirl like snowflakes and smoke, tumbling through the ether, exposing every side before falling to the ground or rising to the heavens. The words are not important ~ from time to time, a word or phrase is captured like an elusive memory, but the emphasis is on harmonic convergence. Each clutch of interlocked notes comes across as a tiny miracle, all the more surprising as the interplay is intentional.
2015 has been an incredible year for textured vocalists, from Matana Roberts to Holly Herndon to Craig. Each artist stretches the boundaries of vocal music past the ordinary, working with layers and loops in order to bring out the nuances and create extra dramatic tension. But only Craig is pure voice. From time to time, one may be fooled into thinking an organ tone is present (for example, the low hums of “Habit Worn & Wandering”), but this is not the case. The same holds true for the “synth” ending of “Each All in Another All”. An occasional tape pop is the only deviance, yet a fitting one. By including the sounds of this medium, Craig adds a layer of nostalgia, balancing the sense of timelessness implied by his voice.
Tender intonations rise from silence in “Doubtshapes”, beckoning listeners to lean in. The invitation is so gentle that one might call Craig a music whisperer. There are no sharp edges here, as normally found in the human voice: only soothing, striving, and wistful tones. One feels safe in their presence. As the album progresses, the words grow clearer (beginning with “Empty, Circle, Tremble” and culminating in “Grace In Expectation”), but the message has already been received; the spiritual plane is not only in heaven, but right here, reflected in the voice of the created. (Richard Allen)