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Ian William Craig, "Red Sun Through Smoke"

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Eighteen months on from his last solo release, Vancouver-based singer/composer Ian William Craig returns with a brilliant and powerfully emotive new album. His first for a long while to be centered around the piano - and also one of his most pared back - the record was made through an intense period of personal loss and environmental catastrophe.

Red Sun Through Smoke was recorded over two cataclysmic weeks in August 2018 in Kelowna, whilst the city was encircled by the forest fires which, under a warming climate, now regularly rage through British Columbia in summertime. With smoke engulfing the landscape, Ian describes how "the houses across the road couldn’t be seen save for a brief white on white outline. The sun was dull red on grey. The air was becoming steadily dangerous. There was nowhere to go that was not this way; all the space filled up with worry." Having committed to recording that August, Ian sought a supposedly calmer retreat in which to work. Carrying his gear across the province to set up a temporary studio space, the album was recorded from start to finish in the living room of a small house owned by his grandfather who was now residing in a care facility across the street, having been afflicted with dementia for the past decade. The morning after Ian arrived, his parents unexpectedly phoned to say that they would be flying in too, as Grampa had been moved into palliative care, his lungs filled with fluid as a result of the smoke. Despite this shocking turn of events, Ian's parents convinced him to keep recording, with the process ultimately becoming a document of the difficult place in which they found themselves.

One benefit of recording at his grandad's lay in gaining access to his piano, which became the record's anchoring point. Beyond this, the only other instrumentation consisted of Ian’s voice, a shortwave radio set, several modified tape decks and a bunch of tape loops. Ian notes how events helped force the shape of the record and a tendency toward a less layered, more spartan expression. "Everything felt raw, I didn't want there to be anywhere to hide in this record. My parents and I were cramped together in a small house while my grandfather slowly died across the street in a world filled with smoke, after all. So, in this record, more than most, there exist a great many things straight to tape without any effects because there really was no space."

Forged in trauma and an intense, bewildering slew of mixed emotions, Ian William Craig has created an album of incredible beauty, sadness and depth. Red Sun Through Smoke is a profoundly moving album, a standout record in a prolific body of work that shows no sign of faltering.

More information can be found here.

 


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