The debut album of unlikely duo Minor Pieces, The Heavy Steps of Dreaming places the fractured electronics and tape experiments of composer Ian William Craig in a context of more-structured acoustic song. A collaboration between Craig and music therapist Missy Donaldson, it features both the folk-friendly voice of Donaldson and the lucid vibrato of classically trained Craig on lead vocals. The opening 30 seconds of the album layer processed and unprocessed, and unison and harmonized vocals for an elegant and ghostly a cappella start to the six-and-a-half-minute "Rothko." It settles into a strummed acoustic-guitar song while keeping voice effects in play and adding more and increasingly ominous electronic textures as the song progresses. By the five-minute mark, Craig is at full strength over rumbling symphonic textures and glitchy voice samples, together sounding as if universes are colliding. The song remains rooted in melodicism, however. The noise fades and acoustic guitar returns to close the melancholy mini-epic, whose lyrics concern love, wordplay, light, and color. This kind of artfulness is present throughout the album, though presentation varies. The less theatrical "The House" features Donaldson on lead over airy, sustained synths and gradually crescendoing noise, while the fingerpicked, Craig-led "Burden" is the closest thing to straightforward, pastoral folk (though it's not entirely unhaunted). The bulk of the album combines tunefulness and texture in ways that are at once organic and otherworldly, and consistently compelling. Though most of the set's eight tracks are around four or five minutes long, The Heavy Steps of Dreaming closes with the ten-minute "Shipbreaking," an episodic love song with lyrics like "There's the bed where I dreamed against you/Until our limbs became transparent/And I attempted to breathe through paper/And you made rules for what has not happened yet." As if emerging from a dream state, it all ends with a lone Donaldson and acoustic guitar on a resolved chord.
AllMusic Review by Marcy Donelson