Like a warm wind from the East that picks up and catches various sounds from several other genre's, Tanakh is the latest release on Canada's Alien8 Recordings label and yet another amazing release. Although the main member of the group is one Jesse Poe, he has numerous guests that join him on the album, including Mic Turner of the Dirty Three, David Lowery of Cracker, Ned Oldham of Palace, and Nirmal Bajekal (who plays with Ravi Shankar). As one might expect from the above listing of names, the sound of the group is minimal at times and dense at others, with equal parts middle-eastern influences and dark Appalachian folk.
Like Hrsta's L'éclat du ciel était insoutenable, the album swerves back and forth between improvised, almost droning instrumentals and actual songs, and the wide cast of musicians help to make the transitions quite fluid and beautiful. Scores of instruments find their way into the release, including a full array of stringed instruments, horns, and plenty of ethic and even handmade instruments (with a slight touch of digital work in places).
The album actually opens and closes with tracks that help to bring the release full-circle. On both "In Every Villa..." and "...Claustrophobia," the Carnatic vocals (which are wordless, yet highly emotive) of Bajekal weave and and out of Indian instruments, a thick upright bass, layers of strings, and some electric guitar to create a hazy, aural narcotic. Poe takes over vocal duties on "Pharoah's Lonely Daughter," and his smooth baritone fits perfectly alongside the more cinematic sounds of the track, in which desolate electric guitars mix with acoustic while subtle drones haunt the background.
One of the most straightforward tracks on the album is also easily one of the standouts. "Gently Johnny" again features Poe on vocal duties, and the old English folk song (the lyrics of which had been rather softened over the years) is given a completely renewed life with the rendition. While the lyrics sly into rather erotic territory, the instrumentation builds slowly throughout the song, filling out with different instruments while still allowing the lyrics to breath (which is important when you hear them). Although it's definitely an interesting track, one of the only ones that sort of throws off the flow of the album is the reverbed sound-collage (with rather thumping drums) of "Voice Against Memory" (mainly it's because it's basically the only track on the disc with a pronounced rhythm).
Still, even the aforementioned track is hardly anything that sounds too out-of-place, and things go right back into atmospheric mode on the epic track of "Prayers In The Pavilions," which doesn't sound dissimilar to a rather spaced-out Shalabi Effect offering. Just before the aforementioned closing track comes another rather straightforward track in "Of Other Men's Dreams." Poe again takes lead vocals while Bajekal adds some background atmosphere as the track moves along with an almost hummable melody. Although little bits of many of the groups mentioned in the review make their way into the release, it's something that's still very unique in its own right.