Tanakh Dieu Deuil

[Alien8; 2004]

Rating: 3/5

Styles: folk, post rock, psychedelic, Americana
Others: Shalabi Effect, A Silver Mt. Zion, Arab Strap, Mazzy Star

Alien8 Recordings continues to diversify its catalogue with Dieu Deuil, the sophomore release from Richmond, Virginia's Tanakh, brainchild of vocalist/songwriter Jesse Poe. Musically, the record is a haunting collection of folk-tinged psychedelia falling somewhere between the experimentalist endeavors of Montréal, Canada's Godspeed You! Black Emperor (and the collective's side projects A Silver Mount Zion, Set Fire to Flames, and Molasses) and the lonesome, eerie sounds of "New Weird America," which have been recorded of late by the Jewelled Antler Collective, Charalambides, and Sunburned Hand of the Man.

Like the above-mentioned bands, there is an improvisational feel to many of the tracks on Dieu Deuil. It's a decidedly low-key album, with most of the pieces creeping along at a relatively languid pace. The low-fi production gives the album a particularly raw, unpolished, "live" feel as well. With Dieu Deuil, Tanakh has released an atmospheric, autumnal record with some considerably haunting, emotional resonance that is only heightened by the addition of a melancholic violin on most of the tracks. On a few of the pieces here, such as "Lady Eucharist," there is often interplay of two violins harmonizing against each other.

The majority of the tracks on Dieu Deuil exhibit the influence of the folk drone that was such a major component of '60s and '70s folk psychedelia: every song clocks in at almost six minutes or more, and they tend to be extended, repetitive, drawn-out pieces. Furthermore, there is a great deal of unusual percussion on the record, lending a "hippie jam session" sense to it. To further this analogy, there are strains of Middle Eastern and Indian melodies that weave their way in and out of the pieces presented here. Approximately half of the tracks are fairly lengthy, meandering instrumentals.

I almost wish that Dieu Deuil had been completely instrumental rather than featuring Jesse Poe's vocals on half of the tracks. Poe's voice, unfortunately, isn't terribly strong, and his delivery tends to anchor the music to the singer-songwriter tradition, rather than the experimental "new Americana." The instrumental tracks are more moody, evocative, and interesting than the vocal tracks, with plenty of incidental sounds buried deep within the mix. It's a shame, though, that Poe's vocals wind up being, for the most part, a distraction from the beautiful guitar work and melodies presented here.

1. November Tree
2. Exegesis
3. Instrumental
4. Lady Eucharist
5. The Lord is in This Place...How Dreadful is This Place
6. Til' San Francisco
7. Images
8. Lock the Door When You Leave