Album Review: Idan Raichel – At The Edge Of The Beginning [Cumbancha, 22nd January 2016]

Idan Raichel is an Israeli singer/songwriter who’s latest venture, At the Edge of the Beginning, marks his ninth studio album, continuing what has so far been a prolific and celebrated career. Described as “coming full circle”, this album is Raichel’s attempt at simplifying his previous studio efforts. Despite this, the album comes packed with various ballads and upbeat tracks that pull influences from numerous sources, including the flavours of francophone, minimalism and contemporary Gnawa music.

The trouble is that Raichel’s influences can be so clear that one ends up feeling more inclined to listen to the artist they’re reminded of, rather than a shadowing imitation of them. Tracks like ‘Le’Chakot’ and ‘Ma’agalim’ have such blatant similarities with other styles that it’s hard not to think of someone else’s music; the former coming across as a lost Ludovico Einaudi piece, or even a work by Yann Tiersen, or the latter, whose liveliness, and the inclusion of a very lengthy accordion solo, conveys a certain aroma of francophone particularly reminiscent of artists like Cœur De Pirate (prominently the album Blonde).

What is pleasing about this album is the quieter, more intimate tracks. ‘Ha’Yad Ha’Chama’ comes across exactly as that it intends to be, a heartfelt poem describing loneliness. Raichel’s voice takes on a softer demeanour than some of his other tracks, exclaiming the tenderness he feels towards this topic, which is only intensified by the delightful string accompaniment. It is tracks like this one that make the album stand out, moving Raichel’s style away from the quasi-superficial popular side of things, into something more personal and endearing. In these moments, the most enjoyable aspect is the Hebrew language itself, with the guttural syllables creating a nuance that isn’t matched elsewhere in the album. At the Edge of the Beginning is an album that has its highs and lows, but there are definitely songs on this album worth listening to.