Published Oct 08, 2019Since 2014's A Turn of Breath first dazzled experimental music aficionados with its lush vocal loops, Vancouver-based singer-composer Ian William Craig has been reaching ever-higher orbits of the fantastic with his music. His soaring, powerful voice resonates with heart-wrenching emotion, whether it's being used as a vessel for poetry or as an instrument saturating the air. Craig excels in the abstract, as well as the more nuanced space occupied by singer-songwriters.
As bewitching as Craig's music is on its own, the aural dreamscapes that he and songwriting partner Missy Donaldson conjure as Minor Pieces are truly fervent. The two weave transcendent traces of light across the night sky with their equally matched intonations. Their voices commingle, call to each other, and cry out in equal measure, all to serve the composition at hand. There are guitars and synths present, yet they serve merely as skeletal framing mechanisms for the pair to lay their eerie incantations upon. The vocals are the centrepiece.
"Rothko" finds the duo in lockstep, harmonizing with bare vocals over an acoustic guitar. Before long, Craig's signature tape loop technique creates a storm of corroded strings and apparitions of vocal ghosts that swirl about before vanishing. Craig and Donaldson leave as they entered, their untreated harmonies fading into blackness. With "This House," Donaldson leads her partner through a narrative laced with wonderment and reverence. Her vocal echoes form a web of lyrical fragments that combine over washes of synth into a series of fond memories.
The most impassioned piece on offer is the ten-minute epic "Shipbreaking," a series of blown-out images that flash by as if in a film. The tale is told in vignettes, with Craig's pools of vocal loops mirroring Donaldson's lyrical reminiscences. A thick wall of feedback grows and then withers on the vine, serving as a short interlude before the duo return, ready with new and even more passionate harmonies that close out the already highly emotional album.
Minor Pieces is a major force in the universe, and The Heavy Steps of Dreaming is an awe-inspiring debut from this pair of otherworldly voices. (Fat Cat)