White Whale, released 5th June via Injazero Records, is the third studio album from Canadian multi-instrumentalist and producer Caton Diab, aka C. Diab.
A meditative sound exploration of bowed guitar, flute, trumpet, synthesizer and subtle tape manipulations, White Whale is a beautiful intersection between leftfield ambient music, film score, post-rock. Diab himself describes his music as “post-classical-grunge.”
Having received critical acclaim for his stunning 2018 release Exit Rumination (and 2016 debut No Perfect Wave), the writing of White Whale arose over several months in the latter half of 2019, expressing the thoughts at the forefront of the Vancouver-based musician’s mind: generational disenfranchisement, lack of economic security and spiritual disposition.
“The hope for security, for accountable humanitarian leadership, for affordable housing and fair income, for understanding, things which we learned were natural pieces of a progressive society, now seem like humanity’s great white whale in a darker, regressive world, once appearing on the horizon only to disappear again into the deep,” writes Caton.
Diab created skeletal forms of White Whale’s music over the summer and fall of 2019, with much of the flesh of the work allowed to come to life spontaneously during the recording process. Using synthesizer along with the bowed guitar, flute and trumpet of previous records yields a mix of analogue and digital technology new to his music. This subtle, sympathetic widening of his usually focused palette accordsWhite Whale a new identity amidst C. Diab’s work, yet retains the unique magic and the uncanny mysticism we have come to know.
Lead single ‘Street Scenes’ is deeply emotive in sound and balance, marrying soaring bowed melodies with layers of perpetual drones, conveying a distant world of melancholy and broken beauty. Later in the record, the heavenly, otherworldly transportation of ‘Utopia’ and the sonic textures and organic instrumentation of ‘100 Famous Views’ help push White Whale into an evocative, innocent purity. Interestingly, White Whale lands only momentarily on comparison points. Listeners of Colin Stetson, for example, will appreciate C. Diab’s virtuosic instrumental technique; fans of Tim Hecker and Richard Skelton will find interest in the glacial slow-motion textures; here is a soul-bearing and intimate tenderness in the same way as Arthur Russell, while John Fahey and Robbie Basho collectors will understand his nods to the dark underworld of North American folk music. But, as with the best records, the result is much greater than these parts. The truth more distinctive and mythical than the evocations.
Offering his music as an impetus for self-healing, Caton speaks of escape, understanding and compassion. “It’s my hope that White Whale, for what it’s worth, will lend a small hand to the listeners’ emancipation from inward fear and sadness and feelings of unworthiness,” he writes. “And help you realize what it is you need to do in order to have that conversation, or make that move, and two steps forward in crushing that which seeks to crush you.”