"All my diamonds shine cause they really diamonds."

- Kevin Gates

"Consciousness comes into being at the site of a memory trace."

- Sigmund Freud, attributed by Walter Benjamin

"The things I've found most inspiring in my creative output have always centred around a feeling of orbiting or becoming. It's been very hard for me to finish things, in fact, because they are always in a state of billowing."

Ian William Craig, interview with CokeMachineGlow

Ian William Craig's Centres is infernal. Or, at least Inferno-esque: the Vancouver-based, opera-trained tape loop punisher's debut for FatCat offshoot 129428 traverses a similarly whirligiging circle to that of Dante's pilgrim in the legendary Divine Comedy. From the gorgeous choral floorboard exhalations that peek out of 'Drifting To Void On All Sides' to the hovering falsetto notes undercut by sputtering noise in 'It Need Not Be Hopeless', Craig's loops buttress the record's rotational inertia, its revolving investigation into the art of spontaneous tape decay as music. As Dante excavates the depths of sin, suffering, and punishment during his spiraling descent into hell, so too does Craig mine the limits of voice, tape, and distortion.

Yet whereas Dante's neatly concentric Circles of Hell attest to some sort of divine design, Craig's centres betray a certain aberrance; they aren't stable loci of perfect loops. The album's plural title itself indicates that Craig's process in fact decenters the listener and the "sense of narrative" Craig "ke[pt] coming back to" throughout his back catalog (at least according to Craig in his electrifying Cokemachineglow interview): Centres pinpoints a scattered multiplicity of moments in its billowing. As Tiny Mix Tape's Ben Roylance points out, Centres "functions like a circle failing to meet itself or somehow irrevocably changing over the course of its circumference;" the radically different 'Astoria' and 'Cedar' versions of 'Contain' that bookend the record literalize the unmet arcs of Centres' widening gyre. When Craig's warble peaks over the layers of feedback (in a gorgeous, cloud-parting instance of clarity) to surrender ("I will not contain you"), he speaks not just to an anonymous recipient but also as an honest reader of his own text, a decipherer of his decomposing tape loop music as a concrete artifact whose caprice he can't curb--or even unpack. But that isn't the point.

Craig comprehends the instability of his fickle physical art. In a comprehensive interview with Decoder Magazine, he describes his affinity for the "creative gesture" inherent to tape loop music. "The[ tape loops] inject a certain randomness, a certain loss of control" that Craig navigates throughout Centres. It's this performative spontaneity inherent to tape manipulation that Craig likens to his educational and professional experience with printmaking, a process in which the medium of the "acid does whatever the acid is gonna do." Centres' amorphous centerpiece 'A Circle Without Having To Curve' transduces the acid bath of his printmaking into a gently seething wash of noise. As each element decomposes, the loops begin to variegate, hewing each sound from the next into discrete blips. Each blip here is a point, solid yet ever-receding, circular yet with no circumference--a circle without having to curve. In every gleaming throb lies the immanent wholeness that transcribes itself around these centres: in Craig's words, "ultimately the process is dictating what the final image is gonna be."

Less a sculptor than a cartographer, then, Craig traces the radiant landscape that diffuses out of each centre. It's a testament to how totalizing this music feels that Craig's artistic gesture here echoes the chorus of Baton Rouge rap heavyweight Kevin Gates' booming single 'Really Really'. Gates' blustering admission that his "diamonds shine cause they really diamonds" alludes to a similar notion of immanent wealth or status or beauty that the artist identifies, verifies and lets speak for itself. The fact that Gates' diamonds shine does not testify to their diamond-ness; an ambiguous "really"-ness defines their material reality. Craig's diamonds are, of course, his precious centres, points that exfoliate in a mineral glint--little consciousnesses that billow out of the centering traces of "really"-ness and organic, spectral "becoming." Craig's centres create orbits because they're really centres, a dizzying, reversing ontology that Craig lets materialize and disintegrate in the hazy atmospheres that dapple Centres.

This dialectical wobble between materialization and disintegration, comprehensibility and ineffability, the "angelic" beauty of Craig's voice and the shrieking death rattles of his physical loops billows through the record. This gentle undulation, this gravitational tension congeals in centres like 'The Nearness'--where the otherworldly sputter of the loop, so obscenely foreign and exterior abuts Craig's literalizing vocalizations of intimacy--and 'Ocean Only You Could See'--whose title suggests an inherent incommunicability but conjures a sonic froth that feels so viscerally lived-in and known--testify to an imbalance, disconnected lilt in the scattering of Centres' centres.

Indeed, Craig never can connect the dots. As he tirelessly points out throughout both versions of 'Contain', neither he, the artist, nor the words he employs--"only slow vessels that were never meant to contain anything"--cannot encompass the immense topography that emanates from the album's centres. But as geometer, he performs an ultimate sonic calculus, tracing a transcendent asymptote across Centres' piebald space. As Dante evokes the heavenly in his tour of hell, Craig draws a singular wholeness from his discrete set of centres. "You are revealed, you are revealed again," bursts from Craig in 'Purpose (Is No Country)' as layers of his voice harmonize over each other. Each vocal part, each centre--with its own timbre and lustre--retains its individuated glint. Each centre here might be 'Drifting to Void on All Sides,' not 'Contain[ed]' in a cohesive monotony, 'Set to Lapse' outside of the coalescing gravity the moment creates, but Ian William Craig localizes a glimpse of the 'Innermost,' so atavistically moving that it must be the centre of something magnificent.