The classically trained Ian William Craig released in 2016 one of the best experimental works of the year in Centres. Applying ample processing to his vocals, in effect enhancing the performance, he created an adventurous record without tempering with the underlying emotion. Today he returns with Slow Vessels, a long EP, which extends the concepts of Centres in a very unexpected manner.
Slow Vessels does not present new material, rather acting as an expansion of Centres, with semi-acoustic renditions of the previous skin. Even though this is not a completely unplugged environment, the music has been significantly stripped of its previous skin, unveiling an unprocessed point of origin. The DIY approach taken by Craig also speaks about this return to the core of his music, recording the whole album with a borrowed guitar and piano in Gothenburg while on tour, and then mixing between shows.
This distilling process was able to not only retain the emotional scope inherent in Centres, but to bring it even more to the surface. The tracks are turned to melancholic ballads, with a slight old fashioned narration, a testament that heavy processing and electronic shortcuts might aid in the expansion of a musician's vision, but if the foundations are not solid, the endeavor is bound to fail. Craig's foundations are solid, his music and message are exceptional on the very basis, and the further enrichments of Centres illuminate that point, but are not solely responsible for it. A track like “Nearness” is further expanded by its reimagining with simple piano lines and stunning vocals, while “Contain” reveals a new, processional side.
It is the “less is more” paradox that Craig has unveiled, making the experience of Centres more humane and familiar, even spiritual with tracks like “Set To Lapse.” This is the message running through the album, even in the manner it is presented to the listener. Take the artwork in both Centres and Slow Vessels, and their abstract drawing. Slow Vessels appears in full color, while Centres appears in black and white. Even though the two covers are not exactly the same, what Craig has done is expanding the musical depth of his work (by adding color) to the tracks of Centres. The real mystery is that he has added this extra dimension not by layering further elements to the sound, but by reducing them.
7.7 / 10
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