Craig Ward ‘New Third Lanark’ (Jezus Factory) 14th July 2014
We’re reliably informed that the bearded middle aged, erstwhile dEUS guitarist, Craig Ward is as content as he’s ever been, residing in his Argyll home. The Scottish musician may have returned back to his native land and named an album after a long ago liquidated/dissolved, once proud, Glasgow football club, the Third Lanark A.C. (a meteoric climb to third place in the Scottish top league during the 60s, behind the winners Rangers and Kilmarnock, couldn’t prevent their finical demise in 1967), but Ward has travelled far and wide both in the literal sense and musically.
At one time or another, Ward has served time in a trans-European cabal of edgy, unruly underground bands, including Kiss My Jazz, The Frames, The Summer Of Mars, The Love Substitutes, Elton Genocide, iH8 Camera, True Bypass, A Clean Kitchen Is A Happy Kitchen (featured here on the Monolith Cocktail) and collaborated with another Monolith favourite, Mark Mulholland.
Most of these projects have manifested in Belgium, and been released by the Antwerp label, Jezus Factory. Ward was originally invited to holiday in the Belgium cultural hub of Antwerp by Stef Kamil Carlens – of dEUS and Zita Swoon notoriety. This getaway soon turned into a long stay, as he first joined the first of many groups, beginning with Kiss My Jazz and as a replacement for Rudy Trouvé in dEUS (during the In A Bar Under The Sea and The Ideal Crash album recordings and tours). Leaving the band in 2004, Ward then moved through a litany of projects, which included a production credit alongside Steve Albani on The Frames’ album, For The Birds.
Though recorded in a Rotterdam attic during the winter of 2011, the maverick guitarist is only just releasing his solo debut. Possibly due to the scheduling problems and commitments faced by an artist working feverishly on so many albums at once, this stripped and sparse five-track instrumental suite would have found it difficult to compete amongst the rabble.
A strange mysterious conjecture of Popol Vuh’s Affenstunde and Guru Guru’s UFO, New Third Lanark is a suggestive ambient soundtrack into space. Though the song titles may allude to personal earthly themes and Scottish landscape, each moody low humming sound piece evokes both expansive surveys of inner meditative thought and alien worlds. Using only extemporized layers of obscured and shape shifting guitar notes and sustained effects, Ward tentatively builds his new horizons with the most delicate and purposefully poised of touches, drifting subtly between thoughtful lingering mystique and ominous trepidation.
From hovering over the, at first, becalmed ‘Tropic Of Bennett’, to the entrance of a sonorous, discordant looming presence of an object flying into our air space, to the telekinesis shifting movements and eerie atmosphere of ‘The Tenant’, it’s difficult to know exactly which emotive string is being pulled.
The titular track itself uses a real tangible reference to the fabled football team – set up by the Third Larnarkshire Rifle Volunteers in the 19th century –, yet again the textured callings of Ward’s cerebral guitar ascend toward an Ash Ra Tempel like higher plain of tubular hollowed monuments and trace the last communications of a dying message from deepest space. Or it could be a personalized empirical passage on the memory and loss of a football club.
Cryptic would be a good word to use as a summary; the narratives of electric guitar waned storytelling abstract but made meaningful enough to describe something at least partially concrete.
Once again Craig Ward manages to expand those ‘horizons’, with another interesting deviation from his more growled, industrial and fusion style renderings. Stripped bare and withdrawn, it won’t however suit everyone, even those familiar with Ward’s work, yet it’s a great record to indulge oneself in, a backdrop for the inquisitive.