The Heavy Steps Of Dreaming is the brilliant debut album from Vancouver-based Minor Pieces, a new songwriting partnership comprising acclaimed singer / composer Ian William Craig and newcomer Missy Donaldson, a singer and multi-instrumentalist. Retaining some of the textural play and experimentation of Ian’s solo material whilst channeling it squarely within the domain of tangible songwriting, the pair utilise guitar, modified tape decks, bass and synths to fashion deeply-felt songs with their beautifully matched male / female vocals standing resolutely centre-stage. Taking influence and inspiration from the likes of Low, Grouper, Mazzy Star, Portishead, My Bloody Valentine, Talk Talk and Cat Power, The Heavy Steps Of Dreaming sounds at once familiar whilst forging something new, unique and beyond the sum of its influences.
Rothko opens the album on Ian and Missy’s interlocked voices, before the steel-strung strumming breaks down into a tape-manipluated hall-of-mirrors. This House switches to Missy’s vocal lead and a heavily muffled / distorted bass pulse, over which veils of synth sound emerge and gradually deteriorate. The beautiful Bravallagata recounts memories of a Christmas spent in Rejkjavik, whilst Grace – the sole song on the LP written by Missy moments after leaving the hospice where she had said goodbye to her beloved grandmother, who passed away an hour later – is flooded with duplicated layers of voice and faltering playback. Following on, Burden works as a beautiful counterpoint - stripping everything back again to the simplicity of acoustic guitar and voice. The Way We are In Song muses on how “we form our mouths in perfect words / but the sound we go to make is always gone”, how "we’re never quite content to let the things we do stay wonderfully wrong”. A minimalist mantra, Tender Fire comes the closest to both the sacral and also to experimental dissolution. Closing the album on its most expansive track, Shipbreaking is an epic, 10-minute long odyssey that winds its way through a succession of parts – from dense and distorted, to airy ambient lushness and ending in a slow and sparsely beautiful picked guitar and some of the most resonant lyrics on the album.
Finding a coherent and beautifully measured equilibrium between the male and female; the direct and the expansive; between crystalline clarity and faltering obfuscation; the anchoring of pop hooks and the experimental pull of immersive textural density, the album is tender, graceful and emotionally powerful. Born of an intensely artistic sensibility, humble yet rendered with brilliance and utter conviction, it’s a record that manages to pull off a kind of easy intimacy, that has great depth to withstand and reward repeat listening. The Heavy Steps Of Dreaming is an immeasurably deep, warm, grainy, honest and utterly brilliant debut album. A place you’ll want to linger in and return to.
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- Albums of the Month - November 2019