First things first: that’s a W on the cover, not a III, and this is Whale Fall‘s 4th album. Now that we’ve cleared up any confusion, check out that Pacific Blue vinyl! It’s deep and dark enough for a whale to swim through.
It Will Become Itself may look like a five track LP, but it’s really one long piece, which makes it one of the longest post-rock songs of all time, and since the whole thing is of high quality, it’s one of the best long post-rock songs of the year. In the first movement the piano provides a beautiful prelude that eases us into the album; but we quickly arrive at the band’s not-so-secret weapon, the cornet, which launches the 18-minute “El Caracol.” The combination of brass and piano whispers of jazz clubs and rainy nights; but make no mistake, there’s guitars and drums a’plenty!
The project was “inadvertently recorded” in a spontaneous improvisation session, though little about it seems improvised. Credit this to the fact that the quintet molded the recording over the course of a year, adding cello and tenor saxophone as well as the previously mentioned prelude. Far from being “experimental improv,” the session instead sounds like lightning in a bottle. The first stairway to crescendo arrives in the twelfth minute and is enough to set hearts astir. Here comes the storm.
But then ~ and you know post-rock pieces are going to do this ~ the instruments repeat, laying the piano bare, flashing back to the beginning. The album’s 19th minute is nearly silent, a respite as the quintet gathers its strength, a distant voice over cello, a forgotten task that must be recovered if the journey is to continue. We’ve reached the end of Side A, and thankfully there is silence, as the vinyl fans will be pleased to learn (no jarring cut-offs here!).
By the 26th minute, we’re rocking again. The quintet is locked into something, playing instinctively, unaware that what they’re doing is actually really good; they won’t discover this until later, and they must have been really stoked to note that the microphones were on. But how will they play this live? It’s a good question, perhaps a bit moot as no one is touring right now. The answer is likely: they won’t. But they’ve discovered that they can come up with something great in a spontaneous fashion, so concert-goers – when we get back to normal – can look forward to unique renditions or perhaps even entirely new extended jams.
It Will Become Itself is a worthy addition to the Whale Fall canon, a live album that isn’t all live, with a III that’s really a W, and a whole chain of other expectations broken in the process. (Richard Allen)