“Let no one who is not a geometer enter,” Plato said. Yeah, right: would be quite a vicious republic full only of math adepts. No, of course we’re reading history wrong here. He meant, let’s say, that it’s all geometry — it all comes from geometry. Start there.
On his first full-length for FatCat’s 130701 imprint, composer, vocalist, artist, and TMT muse Ian William Craig explores and inhabits the geometry of voice and tape to come; Craig, against first impression (“such decay!”), is a master geometer. Centres is a long, exhaustive album, cohesive in its apparent mission of pushing to the edge any tendency explored on Sean McCann’s Recital label or Craig’s independent Bandcamp releases. Craig’s many approaches to his fragile, esoteric tape work are here each given room to grow, to inform one another, to eventually form what one song’s title evokes: “A Circle Without Having To Curve.”
Centres begins and ends with vastly different versions of the same piece, “Contain.” The album, on a loop, functions like a circle failing to meet itself or somehow irrevocably changing over the course of its circumference. “Contain (Astoria Version),” the album’s first track, is as emotionally and musically virtuosic as anything Craig has released. His voice is distorted by something like 2000s-era autotune here (Though, with Craig, could it be so simple as a digital effect? His has always been an analogue experimentalism), calling to mind some of ANOHNI’s recent work in hyperdramatic, electro-orchestral pop. “Contain (Cedar Version),” the final track on the album, is a shorter, relatively skeletal rendition, featuring Craig, guitar, and whatever tape artifacts happen to click or pop around the performance.
The aforementioned “A Circle Without Having To Curve,” another 10-minute piece, functions much like a gravitic core of Centres, a (well, approximately) centrally located track that serves as a pushing-pulling force, changing and stabilizing the things preceding and following itself, a sort of nut or off-center center of the album. The quiet chapel-space of “Purpose (Is No Country)” or the vibrant physicality of “Power Colour Spirit Animal” also feel as if placed in balancing positions on the album, furthering the impression of Centres as some sort of impossible wheel or machine.
Other images of a fading geometry populate the album: the pluralized Centres (recalling in miniature that this is a universe made up only of potentially central points) or “Fading to Void on All Sides,” a voiceless piece of self-destroying tape manipulation that ranks among Craig’s best. In fact, “Craig’s best” is a thought that pops up throughout this record: without having gotten his work down to anything as dead as a science, Craig has become so good at his craft that one might be tempted to call Centres a magnum opus — it’s certainly grand enough.
Who but IWC?