Alright, so I’ll admit to knowing next to nothing about atmospheric dark folk. Nor do I know much about the music scene in Israel, the home base for multi instrumentalist Tamar Singer who performs under the name Zeresh. Here’s what I do know. Every time I would play Sigh For Sigh, the debut EP from Zeresh (released Jan 18th, 2018 on 999 cuts records) it would snow! Either this is a testament to how brutal the weather has been in Montreal lately or Zeresh have the ability to invoke snowstorms through their music. Given how utterly dark and cold the four songs on Sigh For Sigh are, I’m actually leaning towards the latter.
I’m typically a guy who prefers music with some hooks and a definable chorus rather than atmospheric mood pieces, but Zeresh has me questioning this logic. Tamar Singer creates songs that feel like paintings, the many instrumental layers feel like brushstrokes on a canvas. The colour pallet though is extremely dark; shades of greys and browns over black and white. The intro to “O, Gather Me The Rose” sounds like the beginning to a fantasy heavy metal odyssey but rather than burst into a full on metallic blitzkrieg, the songs floats dizzyingly around the constant churn of the acoustic guitar. The song literally feels like it’s coming from deep within a cave somewhere in the frozen tundra. There’s so much open space and white noise in the song, it feels as if actual gusts of wind are passing through the music. “Halls Grew Darker” ran me through the gamut of emotions, starting out scary as fucking hell, it transitions into an ethereal acoustic ballad with Singer sounding angelic, hitting on some high notes that actually seem to take flight.
The uniqueness of Zeresh makes comparisons difficult, but another band that tends to favour feeling and atmosphere over hooks and rhythm is Sigur Ros. Zeresh creates music that should be on feature films, I don’t even need to know what the synopsis is, it will be stunning, if not solely for the soundtrack. The song “Holy” sounds like doom; not the metal subgenre, I mean literal impending doom! While you listen to it, I recommend staring intently at the scratchy black and white cover art of a woman dressed in what appears to be a renaissance wedding dress (by far the creepiest album artwork I’ve seen since Black Sabbath’s self-titled debut). I was in the act of doing this and had to stop for fear that the woman would come crawling out of the screen The Ring style.
“Double Ballad Of Life And Death” closes out the EP and again, based on the intro, I was expecting it to burst into metal power riffs and intense shrieking vocals. It does not. Continuing with the themes on Sigh For Sigh, it is a cold and airy trance of a song that’s centred around the acoustic guitar and operatic vocals. It leaves you with a dual feeling of fear and wonderment; horrific beauty.
Initially I figured that Sigh For Sigh would lose a few points from me for not having any clear cut, catchy choruses or rocking melodies. Further listening proved, however, that it simply does not require any to be perfect for what it is. Zeresh have an unprecedented ability to extract emotion from your soul while you listen to their songs. And if that doesn’t deserve a perfect score, then I don’t know what does.
Written by Lee Ferguson
*edited by Danielle Kenedy