Centres is the stunning new album from Vancouver-based vocalist/composer Ian William Craig, and his first release for FatCat following two critically lauded back to back albums for Recital Program. 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. Though classically trained and grounded in the choral tradition, Craig's early albums were centered significantly around the piano, with his voice merely a marginal presence. But in recent years his practice has come to focus increasingly around his powerful voice, as can be witnessed on Centres.
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. It was created using a mixture of sources - synthesizer, Hammond organ, guitar, accordion, wire recorder, loop station, Craig's array of re-purposed tape decks and "cassette choir." The songs were created manipulating tape loops through two or three decks at once to create strange deteriorating delays with different colors. Craig would then circuit-bend the bias to create odd kinds of distortion, or bend the sound back into itself so it feeds back in unpredictable ways.
Continually honing and pushing this process, the album shows a quite brilliant attention to textural detail. Morphing, swirling, scouring, shimmering, it continually expands and contracts around you. Forging a harmonically gorgeous and utterly immersive listening experience, it pulls you from the rousing, slow-build of the opening "Contain (Astoria Version)" through the standout "A Single Hope," with its huge bass and Hammond organ swells, and through shifting cloud-zones of "Drifting to Void on All Sides" or "Power Colour Spirit Animal," the Nico-esque accordion opening of "The Nearness," and back to the cyclical ending of "Contain (Cedar Version)," one of the cleanest and sparest tracks here - pared back to the purity of a single voice and guitar.
Centres is a stunning album that stands with a similarly unique sense of vision and integrity as the likes of William Basinski or Colin Stetson.