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Ian William Craig | Kago – Split Series 24 Review

Shamanic pulls from Canadian ambient and Estonian folk corners of the globe.

Sounds like…

Where primal ambience and digital buzz collide.

The review

FatCat Records have had a long-standing series over their 25-year tenure of being a record label. The Brighton based label run a ‘Split 12″ Series’ that paired artists together on A/B sides of challenging and inventive music. This marks FatCat’s final entry into the series and here they bring together Candian composer Ian William Craig and Estonian poet Kago.

The result is an A side from Craig that reminds me of Akira Yamaoka’s Silent Hill soundtracks. The single track is over 18 minutes long and features a strange buzzing bass throb. It sounds primal and like it’s been infused with chants and cave ambience. As the track gets more aggressive and atonal over its length, pipes ring out like bleeding sirens and remind me of Shinto music too. It isn’t an easy listen. After its obscure opening, it grinds at your skill to become quite intense for its climax. Fans of horror soundtracks, dark ambient and shamen electronica will likely find a lot to love here.

cover art for 'Split Series 24'
Cover for ‘Split Series 24’

The flipside is that Kago’s music may be initially more melodic but over the course of seven shorter pieces, they too are just as primal. Runic tracks that call out Estonian heritage run alongside ambient tape whirls that spiral into ping-ponging frequencies of noise. Then there are other pieces that led with melodic guitar or glassy fretted plucks that have been distressed by time and echo. By far the cutest and strangest is ‘Tetemats 2’ which features dualling vocals of Kago and a child they are singing Estonian folk songs. Kago calls these renditions ‘dictaphone shamanism’. I find them creepy cute.

A strange, off-kilter and typically unusual way to bow out of a long-standing series running back to 1997, ‘Split Series 24’ signs off with something angular and wonderful. The way that Ian William Craig and Kago tackle ambient noise feel initially sound worlds apart. When you dig deeper, they are both pulling from different primal places and displaying them in raw sound bites for you to see – glory and warts combined. Is it for everyone? Hell no, but then that’s always been the FatCat way and that’s why they continue to garner respect and intrigue in equal measure.

Recommended track: Kröösnomi

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Ian William Craig and Kago - Split Series 24

8

8.0/10

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