Requiem by Silent Whale Becomes A DreamRelease date: November 17, 2017
Label: Elusive Sound
If you are wondering what that little o (or maybe a small 0?) is doing in not exactly a conventional name of the French quartet, Silent Whale Becomes A Dream, you’ll have to ask them directly. Same goes with for the quite enigmatic band name. Or, maybe, it has something to do with the manner in which they explain their second album, Requiem: “This project is an ode to slowness and to the art of feeling the world, a tribute to rare things, to things that need time to be. We want to tell you minimalist and deep stories. Stories about the infinite sky over your head, about the harsh ground under your feet. As promising and frightening as the vast ocean right in front of you”.
Sounds like something Godspeed! You Black Emperor would come up with, with a bit less political overtones, but as sinister as ever. So, as you might guess, this is music that should fall into that post-rock category (whatever is supposed to fit there anyway). And yes, in the way Sylvain, Damien, Etienne, the original band members since its inception in 2013 and the late addition Yannick since 2017 present their musical ideas, I guess it should. And yet another yes, they do have quite in common with Godspeed!people. But is it just pure imitation, emulation and is it worth a listen?
No, no and yes, in that respect and order. First of all, let’s get back to band’s introduction to the album – you get an immediate feel that these guys are quite versed with classical music, with that modern addition in front, and listening to the album and the way they construct their musical themes fully supports that idea. They definitely take their time to build and develop the musical idea or image they are trying to present, and they also have some clear orchestral moves you can expect from modern classical composers of the younger generation like Max Richter or Olafur Arnalds.
But if with the mention of slow and minimalist you expect some gentle, feather-light compositions, forget. Sure, there are gentle(r) moments on Requiem but in this case, the band has grafted to those moments the Godspeed! (Glen Branca?) style guitar buildup, that is actually predominant here. And in that respect, the band’s statement of intention becomes clearer – it is that walk between the shadow and light and space in between.
But that walks is also the one as if you are walking on that thin circus wire high up there with that big pole with which you are trying to keep the balance. Staying in either shadow or light for too long can give you problems – too much sunlight or too much darkness. In essence, it is that grey area that counts. An extremely hard balance to keep. And in these long, winding 4 tracks Silent Whale Becomes A Dream do get their fingers and toes burned with heat and cold (more the first one) here and there, but they do manage to make that wire walk without falling flat on their behinds and do come up with some nifty post-rock cum classical riffs throughout Requiem. Essential for post-rock lovers, quite interesting for everybody else.