Pianist/composer Will Thompson—William A. Thompson IV—first turned heads with his 2006 debut Baghdad Music Journal—a socially groundbreaking, musique concrete experiment he recorded while serving in the U.S. military in Iraq. Together with drummer Simon Lott, bassist Tommy Sciple, and guitarist Chris Alford, Thompson marks his return to civilian life with WATIV, a dense, emotional pilgrimage that seemingly appears too synchronous to be considered free yet too obtuse to fall under fusion. This much is clear: sentiment, strength, instinct and intuition guide this rich and expressive outpouring.
The disc begins with “Jacksin,” a track whose silhouette is shaped by jarring, disjunctive textures and grooves which resolve into spacious instrumental impressions impelled by Lott’s impetuous cadence. On the shrill, serpentine, and nearly insufferable “Khalla,” the group gives every indication that they’ve mic-ed up and recorded their instruments tumbling down a flight of stairs. Later, sounds which resemble the static and feedback of a radio transmitter creep through “Intermezzo #2”’s haze of sirens, creeks, and clicks. Then again, the nearly 12-minute “Pasteur Peace” rises from a slow, drifting bass melody into an evocative reverie filled with sailing guitars, swooshing keys, unexpected twists, and streaming rhythms. As the arc descends onto “Rach B,” the once chaotic rumble settles into a tumultuous ebb and flow. It’s as if the four instruments have transformed into one emotive hue. Exhilarating, entrancing, and exhausting, WATIV’s journey closes on “Assyrian Folk Song,” an enigmatic, polychromatic coda and a gripping portrayal of the album’s sonic motif— the tranquil rattle of a redolent lull.