Villa Claustrophobia was one of those self-assured debuts that seemed musically far beyond any group should be able to muster up for their first output. A near-seamless mixture of different genres and styles, it was a moody, sometimes downright otherworldy disc of haunting and beautiful music. The follow-up (Dieu Deuil) from the group was a bit more inconsistent, but still had its moments that were outstanding.
This newest release from Tanakh becomes a bit more baffling as a true follow-up to those releases, and perhaps it's meant more as a purging of ideas than as an actual forward step from the group. A double-disc effort of barely-edited improvised pieces, this a massive, sprawling piece that moves from haunting to harsh many different times over long spaces of time, and although it has some things in common with the past music of the group, it has just as many (if not more) things that are completely different.
The most noticible thing missing from the mix is the velvet voice of singer Jesse Poe. In this nearly 100 minutes of music on the two discs, he doesn't sing once, and while the music is expressive enough to conjure up all kinds of imagery, his vocal stylings are nonetheless unfortunately absent. The artwork of the release is suitably mysterious, giving only the names of the players involved and very minimal production information. Tracks are left untitled and only the only eligible words are in the forms of over-saturated signs of the space in which the music was recorded. The first disc of the set (one track, almost an hour running length) opens with soft waves of feedback and progresses slowly, getting more harsh as it moves forward. Bongoes and other lighter instrumentation ocassionally try to enter the mix but are drowned out. About one-third of the way in, the whole track convulses with ripples of percussive feedback and squalls of guitar.
The track settles down into an uneasy bizarro world about halfway through as lo-fi electronics swirl with disembodied voices and a hammer dulcimer signals out lonely notes. After falling back into a section that sounds closer to the beginning of the track, elements drop away and the track becomes even more sparse and isolatory, shearing off into a post-industrial wasteland populated by reverb-drenched stabs of guitar and enough scrapes and clunks to fuel a haunted house. The second disc (which runs just about half the length of the first) starts out very close to where the first disc left off, and again faint taps, jangles, and violin strokes are slowly swallowed by dense clouds of feedback. At times, it feels like something is going to coalesce out of the madness, but the instrumentation never quite pull together. There's no doubt that talented musicians are at work behind the long pieces, but unfortunately the long pieces just don't offer up enough variety in the long run to make them stand out much from other artists doing similar work. Jackie O Motherfucker and even Vibracathedral Orchestra are a couple of artists moving through somewhat similar waters, but they both know the value of creating tension and then punctuating it somehow, while this release from Tanakh just keeps stringing the listener along through a creepy funhouse of music that never reaches much of a resolution. While it's true that not all music is about the destination, but rather the journey itself, these are the sounds of a trip I'd rather not take too often.