I wish I could tell you what it is that I don't like about Jesse Poe's voice, but it evades my vocabulary. There is just something about it that makes you want to risk a scene in the little Middle Eastern cafe you are watching him in by standing up and saying, "Please be quiet. I'm trying to listen to the music."
To be fair, "Lady Eucharist" is the best song with lyrics. His voice, for once, matches the mellow, slow repeat of the music. In the other non-instrumental songs, he tries too hard to put a form to the music that doesn't really belong; the melodies he sings fight against the experimental quality of the songs themselves. But in this one, the lazy, meditative quality fits. The lyrics themselves aren't over-ambitious, for the most part, but match the scale to create a perfect atmosphere. In my mind's eye, it is easy to see a man and woman inside colorful tents in Israel, doing all sorts of sensual things. Or maybe I just have a dirty mind.
"The Lord Is In the Place... How Dreadful Is This Place" is one of the great instrumental songs. Poe and his cohorts reinvent traditional Jewish music in a little bit more modern vein, but don't lose the peculiarities that are so beautiful. The traditionalist backdrop is muddied a little by some jazz-style playing, yet it makes it a little more interesting. While the adults are dancing at the Bar Mitzvah, the kids are running around them in their cute little suits and yarmulkes playing tag. This brings you down to their level, where each leg is like a gigantic Roman column and each table is a whole house. You know the adults are watching, but everyone is in such a good mood, they aren't being very strict, so you can get away with a lot more than normal. This is the mood this enchanting piece recreates.
Another instrumental is entitled "Instrumental." Overtly, it is guitar with a little violin backing like you might expect to find on any pop groups' instrumental songs, but if you listen closely, there is more to it than that. There is a clicking, like someone with Parkinsons' Disease is trying to pry open a clam shell but can't even get the knife into the little slit. There is also the sound of sonar, which is so subtle that it took me half the song to figure out why I kept getting visions of light streaming down through greenish-blue salt water. These two effects come in and out according to the moods of the guitar, but they make this a deeper piece than it first appears.
But this just hints at what Tanakh really seems to be aimed towards, eclectic songs like "Images." Not confined by beat or melody, the percussive beginning deceives you into thinking there is a definite beat. There may be a beat somewhere, but it is hard to identify. Then suddenly, you are a completely different space; you accidentally walked down an alleyway in Bombay and realized a little too late that this was a bad idea. There is nothing to suggest that you should be concerned, but you are anyway. After all, this is an alleyway in Bombay.
There is a little doorway. You walk into a dim cafe. Jesse Poe is in one corner, singing "Lock the Door When You Leave." You contemplate asking him to be quiet so that you can listen to the beautiful music.... 6/10 -- Eden Hemming Rose (25 May, 2005)