Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Hin Dagh

As promised, here's my full review of Epiphany Project's Hin Dagh.

It impresses before you even hear it. Epiphany Project's newest CD, Hin Dagh, arrives in an artful hardcover book, with two pages devoted to each song and its translation.

Translation? Yes, almost every song on the album is in another language, often an ancient one. Sanskrit, Ancient Welsh, Aramaic... they're all represented. And in the hands of Epiphany Project (vocalist Bet Williams, pianist/percussionist John Hodian and an international cast of friends), somehow they all co-mingle, seeming absolutely at home together, side-by-side. Sacred texts, bound together by new music.

The album opens with "Ashem," a lyrical prayer from the Khorda Avesta, the sacred book of the Zoroastrians. It's mysterious and welcoming... and then, suddenly, inexplicably danceable. It's followed by "Charents I," a partial translation of a poem by Armenian poet Yeghishe Charents called "I Am Not That Anymore: An Answer to My Enemies" - and it absolutely soars. Williams and Hodian continue with "Ararat (Arto's Song)," in English, making it one of the album's most accessible tracks. Despite the familiar language, the rolling motion of the song makes it feel, somehow, like travel.

I don't want to get into a description of every track; suffice it to say that every one of them stakes out a little plot in the imagination and begins to flower there. "Sarmad" recalls a busy bazaar full of exotic sounds and spices; "Taliesin's Dream" whispers of ancient rituals and anticipations. "Ujamu Yangu," in Swahili, is a delicate remembrance of lost youth.

"Postcards from Beulah," a sultry track in English, has as its source postcards written by Bet's grandmother. The band promises to expand this piece in a later album, but the song as it stands seems in no way incomplete. Still... it's good to have something to look forward to.

Hin Dagh conjures up exotic locations, and the mystery of the ancient and unfamiliar. There's a measure of exploration, even trepidation, when listening to it, but rest easy: Williams and Hodian are sure-footed guides, and know this territory well.


No comments: