Review: Minor Pieces Weave Intimate Avant-Folk Beauty into Stirring Debut Album ‘The Heavy Steps of Dreaming’

Minor Pieces
Minor Pieces
Minor Pieces’ ambient, intimate debut album ‘The Heavy Steps of Dreaming’ is the musical equivalent of abstract impressionist art: Textural and ethereal, the songs move to and fro with a seeming awareness of their own inherent transcience.
‘The Heavy Steps of Dreaming’ – Minor Pieces

Minor Pieces’ The Heavy Steps of Dreaming is the musical equivalent of abstract impressionist art: Textural and ethereal, the songs move to and fro with a seeming awareness of their own inherent transcience. Small, subtle movements intertwine to form intimate outpouring of feeling – some intense, others withdrawn or intentionally hushed. Much of Minor Pieces’ work feels vague or up for interpretation, and yet no matter how one chooses to digest and understand this music, they are certain to come away from The Heavy Steps of Dreaming changed – a different person than they were going into it.

Minor Pieces blend surrealism, vulnerability, and experimentation into a thing of wonder and beauty.

The Heavy Steps of Dreaming - Minor Pieces
The Heavy Steps of Dreaming – Minor Pieces

Released October 4, 2019, The Heavy Steps of Dreaming is the debut album from Minor Pieces, a new Vancouver-based collaboration between Ian William Craig and Missy Donaldson. Craig has released ten solo albums since 2011, Donaldson is a music therapist and relative newcomer to the music scene, and together, they have crafted an ambitious and truly profound work. Citing influences that include Mazzy Star, Grouper, Cat Power, Bjork, My Bloody Valentine and more, Minor Pieces’ music can be considered a kind of avant-garde folk; they intermingle acoustic guitar and vocals with studio production tinkerings to develop pieces that are on one side of the spectrum gorgeously intimate, and at the other side utterly expansive. It’s the marriage of these two characteristics – polar opposites in theory, but complementary qualities in practice – that lends Minor Pieces’ their distinctive appeal and intoxicating sound.

The Heavy Steps of Dreaming opens with the transformative “Rothko,” a quiet reflection that majestically transforms into a vast tempest. Minor Pieces have a way of developing powerful soundscapes, and in showcasing both sides of their work in this introduction, they lay the groundwork for the expressive and cohesively contrasted moments to come.

Almost immediately, listeners may feel a jarring displacement in “This House,” whose repeated lines and overlays come to feel ghostly, if not altogether haunting. The track was inspired by “imagining that a mental space filled with thoughts and experiences, could be a physical environment to wander through and observe;” indeed, Donaldson’s consistency amidst an ever-changing sonic landscape creates a grounding pulse to bring us deep into Minor Pieces’ world.

And just as we get there, we are pulled out into the brighter light of “Brávallagata,” an acoustic number that shares its name with a street in Reykjavík. Craig and Donaldson sing a harmonically rich, pained expression of isolation and knowing: “In order to be still, you must begin with being still,” they sing. “And so, I stay that way for most of Christmas Day. The sun, it sets in Reykjavík at the same time as it rises.”

The Heavy Steps of Dreaming is not to be taken lightly, nor is it intended to be understood within one or two listens. This record demands of its listeners patience, humility, and an openness to experience; those who grant it those three things will find themselves rewarded in an enriching, cathartic overhaul of the self.

The way we are inside ourselves is never like the way we are in song

– “The Way We Are in Song,” Minor Pieces

Minor Pieces
Minor Pieces

According to Ian William Craig, Minor Pieces songs are “the kind of songs that I’d want to hear when I was sad, to help me feel better – not expressive so much as hopeful,” per the band’s bio. Whereas the album overall seeks out to be a kind of epic minimalist fever dream – and certainly, it succeeds in achieving this goal – nowhere do Minor Pieces do better to reveal their true colors than on the 10-minute “Shipbreaking,” a raw and overwhelming self-described odyssey that is as experimental at its core as it is expressive.

Once again, this is not for the faint of heart.

A provocative adventure into introspective landscapes full of new colors and sounds, Minor Pieces’ music reminds us just how much our ears have yet to hear – and how much we as individuals have yet to grow, develop, and understand. Experience the full record via the below stream, and peek inside Minor Pieces’ The Heavy Steps of Dreaming with Atwood Magazine as the band go track-by-track through the music and lyrics of their debut album!

‘The Heavy Steps of Dreaming’ – Minor Pieces

:: Inside The Heavy Steps of Dreaming ::

The Heavy Steps of Dreaming - Minor Pieces

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Ian: “A textured song about lives in paradox. Emotions and experience layering themselves like colours in a Rothko painting, with no definite end or beginning.


Ian & Missy: “It is a song about nouns. Inspiration stemmed from imagining that a mental space filled with thoughts and experiences, could be a physical environment to wander through and observe. To peer into fragmented bits of memories that are stored neatly in compartmented rooms.


Ian & Missy: “Iceland is beautiful in the winter because the sun never rises and so the dark stays around long enough for you to really make friends with, literally and metaphorically. Not to mention, lamb hot dogs at 3am in the harbour, helped.
Minor Pieces
Minor Pieces


Ian: “There will come a time when everything is lost to us in the way that we know it. Here is a song to make the best of transformations we don’t understand.”


Ian: “There is an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer where Buffy decides to sacrifice herself to save humanity, and I thought it was awesome and wrote a song about it.”


Ian: “We are never how we think we are, so why does it matter to us so much? There are billions of people on the planet right now.”
Minor Pieces
Minor Pieces


Ian: “The repeated phrase is something one of my yoga teachers said once and it stuck with me so I turned it into a mantra.”


Ian & Missy: “Everyone should try their hand at a theory-of-everything song at least once, so here is my stab at it. It is the beast of the album. It was inspired by the work of Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky- who captures images of landscapes transformed by industry. These photographs conveyed a compelling juxtaposition of nature and human made decay that were hauntingly beautiful. The most impactful of the series were the images of Ship breakers in Bangladesh working in treturous conditions to salvage parts from these gigantic vessels that were once used for transporting fuel and fortune to the wealthy. You can’t help but feel guilty while gazing at the beautiful destruction captured and choose to either move on and forget it or process it somehow.”

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:: stream/purchase Minor Pieces here ::

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The Heavy Steps of Dreaming - Minor Pieces

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The Heavy Steps of Dreaming

an album by Minor Pieces

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