The bulk of TAKH’s debut may have come together over the last few years, but the Belgian band’s origins can be traced back to 2015. That was the year when The Black Heart Rebellion’s third album People, When You See the Smoke, Do Not Think It is Fields They're Burning came out, and it found the band collaborating with singer/songwriter Annelies Van Dinter on material that was much more experimental and fluid than before. Out of this creativity an entirely new group, TAKH, emerged, and their music explores some of the more folk and drearier post rock vibes of The Black Heart Rebellion while utilizing softer, muted textures. There are definitely some similarities between the two at this early stage and there is room to further differentiate them in the coming years, but the strength of the writing and stunning climaxes makes TAKH already worth giving some extended listening time.
TAKH treads some of the same ground thatPeople, When You See the Smoke, Do Not Think It is Fields They're Burning had begun to explore, but it’s clear from the first few minutes why this turned into its own project. There is still plenty of free-flowing instrumentation that projects outward with an airier, mystical atmosphere to its build-up, but the tone is a bit murkier and more mysterious than The Black Heart Rebellion. Stylistically the band falls somewhere between the methodical, mesmerizing build-ups of post rock, the mystical side of dark folk and alternative rock, all wrapped up with some occasionally heavier moments that have a slight metallic sheen. With the exception of the more direct, driving drum beat on “Unabashed and Knowing”, TAKH takes a more methodical and laid back approach, as though you can picture being around a campfire watching them play as they let these notes fill the air. The few direct moments give off some hints of Crippled Black Phoenix and Wovenhand, while the more experimental side falls into similar territory as more recent Swans. Songs like “Salomonne” and “Hair of a Horsetail” also remind me quite a bit of Wolvennest, as they channel similar psychedelic melodies alongside some heavier, darker tonality. Post rock-oriented music can sometimes be long winded, so I appreciate the more compact nature of TAKH’s debut at just under forty minutes, as they let their ideas build to some stunning climaxes and then move onto the next idea. Each of the five songs has a warm yet tense atmosphere and specific melodies that draw you in, but the final two hold some of the album’s best moments. “Azure Blue” lets layers of psychedelia and hints of Eastern melodies sprawl outwards, while “Hair of a Horsetail” builds up in more minimalistic fashion with rumbling bass and a haunting guitar melody towards the end.
With Pieter Uyttenhove once again behind the mic, there’s a rougher edge to the vocals that contrast nicely with the melodic and softer instrumentation. He only breaks into a full-on scream towards the very end of the album, which contributes significantly to how much of an impact “Hair of a Horsetail” has, but the performance still has a bit more bite to it than is typical for music of this type. Uyttenhove does vary things up though, as “Azure Blue” adopts a softer and more reflective pitch that gives off a more dreamlike tone. Annelies Van Dinter adds different textures and layers to TAKH that have more of a gothic feel, and when she’s given the spotlight on “Unabashed and Knowing” her performance has quite a bit of power behind it and immediately puts you under its spell. The interplay between Uyttenhove and Van Dinter works to the band’s advantage, and if they can continue to leverage it in interesting ways I’ll be excited to see where it takes them.
You can hear a lot ofThe Black Heart Rebellion at the core of what TAKH is doing, but they have already started to diverge onto some different stylistic paths. But even with there being room to further define their own unique qualities, the songwriting on this debut already sets them apart as a band capable of stunning climaxes and atmosphere that keeps you engaged from beginning to end. I haven’t seen quite as much buzz around this album since its June release compared to some of the others in the post rock or dark folk space, but this one is well worth circling back to if it passed you by. TAKH is available fromConsouling Sounds.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg