Ian William Craig holds such a cherished spot in our musical consciousness that it’s a surprise to recall that his first album was released in 2012 ~ coincidentally, the first year of our site. A unique composer with a clearly identifiable sound, Craig continues to fascinate us with Thresholder, an album that beguiles from beginning to end and is best played in full.
The album was in fact first conceived as a single piece in three-dimensional space. As Craig writes, “this was the lens through which the tracks were assembled: a great boundlessness of space, the sound of the big bang, the spookiness of the quantum world, vacillations of different kinds of conflicting time.” Thesholder captures the feeling of the film Interstellar. It’s both there and not-there, present and absent, lyrical and shrouded, a tantalizing mystery dangling just out of reach, like a darting fish or a memory on the tip of the tongue. Loops and layers tinker with the concept of time; keyboard chords offer a slight yet shifting ground.
Craig has been developing this sound for years, but while the timbres of Thresholder represent a straight line from Centres (some of the tracks developed during that time period), they also mark a return orbit from three interim releases. One might regard these projects as alternate visions: the surprisingly solid Live in Durbē, which eradicated any trepidation about Craig’s ability to translate complex studio work into real time; the short remix EP; and the stripped-down Slow Vessels, which highlighted his unaltered voice and lyricism. Craig’s voice is so stunning that we’d listen to him sing onomatopoeia a cappella, but we prefer this iteration of Craig, as thresholder. Many people can sing, but few can restrain the impulse to join the ranks of singer-songwriters, choosing instead to create textured works that although worn, never seem worn out. One can play Craig’s albums again and again and discover something new in every encounter. The ear may be drawn to moments of clarity ~ for example, the closing moments of “And Therefore the Moonlight” ~ but when such moments pass, sparkling like refractions of sun on coral reefs, one wishes to investigate their surroundings. The beauty is on the surface; the treasures lie beneath.
This album’s emotional peak is the dense and dronelike “Idea for Contradiction 2.” The piece rises to the ceiling and spreads like condensation before filtering down like rain. By placing such a selection late in the mix, Craig demonstrates that Thresholder is not just an album of texture, but of trajectory. Hopes and memories may twirl; time may fold back upon itself; but we are not drifting in space on a severed tether. Although shrouded, the future remains benign. (Richard Allen)