Ian William Craig`s Red Sun Through Smoke is an extremely personal record. I`ll be honest and say that makes it somewhat difficult to review. Ian himself has written a lengthy press release detailing the circumstances of the album’s recording, and put together an accompanying movie of collaged home videos. What can a reviewer`s interpretation do, other than – simply due to distance – play down the weight, or even worse cause offense?
The title`s “Red Sun” and “Smoke” are a reference to the forest fires that roared through the sessions held in British Columbia, during 2 weeks in August 2018. To the resulting air pollution that took many lives, including that of Ian’s grandfather. Ian’s whole musical process seems concerned with memory, and how in our head, the past fades, and decays. With the passing of his grandfather, who was also suffering from dementia, listening to the products of this process feel very close to eavesdropping on grief.
The lyrics for the songs consist of random pages from Ian’s diary. His multi-tracked choirboy vocals transforming their melancholy poetry into hymns. The album, often the individual compositions themselves, forming a suite. Alternating between clarity, and washes of distortion. Fizzing, broken, disintegrating into eternity. Like the ghosts of lost radio transmissions. The family piano plays through a heavy weather of hum, hiss and pause-buttoned false starts. Sometimes stopping altogether as it slams up against a sea of noise. Chopped and screwed, fucked with by the sandpaper of minutes, hours, days, months and years, like a forgotten 45 spinning on Phillip Jeck`s deck. The voices twisted, thin and reed-like. Reaching for falsetto as the music falls away.
A tornado of turbulence tears Condx QRN apart. Til all that remains is a stuttering siren. The cracked, cathartic chorus of Far And Then Farther is reduced to anguish and wordless echoes, as huge chords, scuffed and bruised, erupt, ring like thunder, out of the ethereal. All of this merely paving the way for the closing track, Stories. A Beach Boys prayer of despair. Sonics that seek to describe the disease that took Ian’s grandfather`s mind. As he sat, cared for, but alone, in a place where time has no meaning – because you`ve stopped moving – and your sole companions are the sprites of former joys, and sorrows. Where you sit not participating, but merely an audience for their fragmented dramas, as they dance, criss-crossing, non-linear, in a pattern, colours, only they understand.
Ian William Craig`s Red Sun Through Smoke was released on March 20th, care of 130701.