Tanakh fall under a slew of labels. Call them outsider folk, world music or psychedelic folk and any of those word combos might sort of fit. The brain child of Jesse Poe and company, Dieu Deuil, their second album (both on Alien8 Recordings, which seems to have cornered the market on the odd and interesting) has the ingredients one would expect from the aforementioned monikers. Now, this description could inspire dread, especially if one imagines the worst indulgences of the genres. For instance, just wrap your head around the horror of A Mighty Wind-styled folk mating with hippy-drippy, peace and love shtick. Brings cold chills. Luckily, though, that's not Tanakh.
The album begins with a soft, swirling number seeped in melancholic,
woozy violin. It's nifty
Dirty Three territory until the vocals begin, then it charts
its own course. This segues into a flamenco-esque ditty enlivened
with some impassioned vocals. A moody instrumental follows (oddly
enough entitledInstrumental). It's a little airy and
doesn't quite stick to the ribs, though pleasant enough. A country
tinged ballad about the Eucharist comes next with a Velvet Underground-like
coda that's most satisfying. Then there's a warped, gypsy-styled
instrumental, which conjures up an image or two of Arabic fiddlers
manic and off their medication.
The next track, Til San Francisco, is a real standout.
It's a dark, melodic thing that has a pleasant little ache.
Another instrumental follows, although this time it is dominated
by percussion and ends with wind and a lonely piano. There's
a cinematic feel to this track, leaving a barren after-image
or two. Lock the Door When You Leave wraps things up
with a country-rock tinged number, ending the album with a smidgen
of anger largely absent from what proceeded. Not that it ends
kicking and screaming, but rather it's more like a slammed door
heard from a few blocks away.
There's much to recommend here. One senses that Poe has a nice compositional sense and, though the pieces might be borrowed, the whole transcends the sum of those parts. Furthermore, there's a nice sustaining of tone throughout the album. Moody, melancholic feelings mixed with just a dash of hope to leaven the bread are the main ingredients, and the results satisfy.
Still, Dieu Deuil has a few nagging problems, nit-picky though they might be. There's a lack of lyrical substance. Thankfully the music is substantial enough, although I just wish there could have been a phrase or two that you could take with you when the disc was done. Also, Poe's vocals go from nice to a little bland, sometimes in the same song. But, I wonder if this isn't just a matter of comfort or growth.
In the end, Tanakh avoid cliché and do the genre proud, whatever the heck you call it. Perfect for a rainy Sunday. Here's hoping a long musical life for these people.