Channelling folk wonder as much as it can, Jarak Qaribak is an expectedly interesting release. Jonny Greenwood pursues new forms to bring into his discography and pairs with Dudu Tassa to do so. The latter’s more than two decades of experience in Arabic pop gives his musical partner the foundation to craft some intimate and interesting instrumentals to underscore the lyrical presence. Sawt tracks brought into a bit of a Western scope with Greenwood at the helm. Wonderful inclusions of jazz-rock variety come through Djit Nishrab, a fusion of themes not forgotten by Greenwood and Tassa whose back-and-forth style here is a wonderful experience. Right on a sunny day when someone decides to cut their grass in the dying daylight hours, Jarak Qaribak is a lovely endeavour to block out other sounds.
Hanging on its own merits also, particularly in the instrumental strengths which should serve as a gateway listen to world music for those who need it, Greenwood and Tassa provide confident approaches to a wonderful set of themes. Ashufak Shay continues the spirited approach to the instrumentals, a continual layer upon layer of new sounds, implementations and ideas. It creates an often-overpowering base for Tassa to create around and the pairing between him and Greenwood is exciting. So too are the frequent collaborations with other musicians, a heavy-set featuring album with assured chemistry filtered throughout. But key to all of that is atmosphere, and where Jarak Qaribak has plenty to share, it can become somewhat isolated from its other works.
Such isolation comes clear on Taq ou-Dub, a piece which isolates its vocals, layers the strings around it and the pace set by Nour Freteikh. Greenwood plays around with some interesting yet somewhat out-of-place electronics in the background as the echoes of Freteikh’s voice take centre stage. Leylet Hub is a bit of a forgettable stumbling block although that could be because the caffeine wears off around seven. If anything, the parts that are notably Greenwood-led are the weaker spots here. Bits and pieces of electronic muscle begin to overshadow the real heart and interest of Jarak Qaribak. Interest does not dwindle for this Greenwood and Tassa pairing, but the latter is relegated as the influx of supporting performers grows and grows. Still, it is sometimes impossible to tell who is in which role, a wonderful part which sees the rightly revered pair build from one another rather than around.
Flutters of real quality can be found in the opening handful of tracks and soon the tricks begin to repeat themselves. There is longevity and a delightful experience to be had with Jarak Qaribaki, a piece highlighting Tassa’s endurance in the genre as much as it does Greenwood’s ability to excel in new fields of interest. For that, it is the interesting blur of sensibilities and playing styles which comes to a head. Lhla Yzid Ikthar particularly, its thumping electronic tinge underneath the higher strings and the sudden crunch and shift into slower-paced album closer Jan Al-Galb Salik. Hitting its rhythm well enough and keeping it firm, Jarak Qaribak is an enjoyable bit of work from Tassa and Greenwood, who enlist an interesting selection of supporting artists to aid them.