As If To Nothing
label: melankolic
guests: evan dando, mogwai, photek, king crimson, bono, wendy stubbs, others.
production: craig armstrong, stephen hilton
year of release: 2002
website: |
This painter uses black linen. Instead of darkening the virgin white, he's adding brightness to a vacuumed black hole. He uses the lightless surrounding to give a stronger impression to his light. He's adding wind to the cold. He supersizes the moment with music. It's composed emphasizing. While blurring. While using smears and layers as a tool to give the exact meaning within time and structure rather than a small number of key notes. It's accentuating.
There must be many ways how to describe Craig Armstrong's music, to then be quickly stuck in the mud that is wacky expressionism or fairy tale blues. While the words might quickly fit, it does not make them immediately big enough, for something that is very big. Craig's music is monumental. And so you drag metaphors and similes and poetic reasoning onto the paper, trying to reencounter what it means to encounter this orchestrated music.
But maybe we need to approach this through history, mentioning that Craig first attracted our attention on Massive Attack's second album "Protection", where he lent his magic to "Sly" and "Weather Storm", to just mention two. And these ideas were picked up again on Craig's first album "Space Between Us", that included such masterpieces as "Let's Go Out Tonight" and the Big Sur like "Laura's Theme". Since then or to some extend while then, Craig also worked with Mel C and the Spice Girls, Björk, Madonna, Hole he worked for the movie "Moulin Rouge", "Romeo & Juliet" and "Plunkett & Macleane", along with having his songs on a bundle of soundtracks.

1. Ruthless Gravity
2. Wake Up In New York
3. Miracle
4. Amber
5. Finding
6. Waltz Beauty
7. Inhaler
8. Hymn 2
9. Snow
10. Starless II
11. Stay (Faraway, So Close)
12. Niente
13. Sea Song
14. Let It Be Love
15. Choral Ending
What leads us to another easy description that's fitting for Craig's music: it's soundtrack music. Score music. Craig Armstrong has this soundtrack quality to his songs. And when you look at what that means, then it also means everything that was said before; as movie scores enhance the mood, enhance the atmosphere and enhance the emotion.
What however is too limiting for what Craig does. Especially when he invites a singer. Like Bono for a reworking of "Stay (Faraway, So Close)". And here the over boarding meaning is reflected in Bono's voice when it starts to tremble, and when at the end of the song you wonder if this was done in one take, and consciously left unperfected. Further there's also "Wake Up In New York" with Evan Dando and "Sea Song" with Wendy Stubbs, that both again have the touching quality to get a grown man to cry. A quality that can also, while a little less, be found on the many instrumental tracks, even a harsher one, which are often also very plush and neat ("Starless II"), but at least in the case of "Hymn 2" harsh, with Photek lending his talents to this song.
Craig Armstrong is a miracle maker when it comes to these slow and atmospheric string section layers. He's a magician when it comes to impress us with something glistening in a world of muck. He's a master builder when it comes to using emotion as the walls to carry his ceiling. Craig Armstrong's music is silence in a world of thunder.
review: tadah
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