With her fifth full-length album taking its title from the ancient name for still existing Egyptian monoliths, one might presume that Anna Jordan’s latest output as The Allegorist is yet another exercise in auditory world-building, plunging the listener into a sonic landscape somewhere between factual history and fantastical myth. Certainly, these elements persist in Tekhenu, but where the album deviates thematically is in its exploration of the fragility of the individual, seeing the warrior of past efforts like The Blind Emperor now confronted with their own vulnerability. Across the album’s 10 tracks, Jordan chronicles a journey both inward and outward, with the changing environment mirroring one’s emotional state, resulting in a sojourn both solitary and immersive.
Those with a taste for the kind of vocal manipulations employed by Karin Dreijer in The Knife or Fever Ray will likely appreciate Jordan’s own prowess on glorious display on Tekhenu; crafting muscular harmonic accompaniments through pitch-shifting and other effects, her layered vocals enhance the depth of her electronics, with the melodies of tracks like “Born in the River” and “Dreams at Dawn” proving to be especially striking. Only occasionally does this simulated masculinity create a somewhat disquieting effect, and rightfully so on a track like “Inner Dialogue,” which along with its offbeat rhythms and warbling synth leads create a dreamy elegance that truly evokes the internalized workings of one’s mind. Drumbeats are sparse on Tekhenu, usually relegating the rhythms to tonal repetitions and loops that along with the aforementioned vocal manipulations and fluttering melodies instill a breathy, almost organic quality, as if to envelop the listener in a habitat teeming with life both alien and beautiful. This is with the exception of the tribal drumming of “Trees of Peace,” the brightly electronic beats of the closing “Barefoot,” and the ritualistic pulsations of the title track, lush and mysterious and filled with a kind of urgency one might experience in an unfamiliar setting, the inclination to revert to a warrior mode before the fear erodes into wonder.
Although Anna Jordan would likely excel in the capacity of a soundtrack composer, one gets the sense that even the cinematic realm might be too constraining for the vision of The Allegorist. The otherworldly and ephemeral atmospheres she creates do, at times, feel like a merger of the far Eastern fusion of Geinoh Yamashirogumi with the epic predilections of Hans Zimmer, and while in no shortage of ethereal allure, some tracks on Tekhenu feel almost unrealized in their full potential – like being awakened from a dream too soon. This may have been intentional, and it does elicit repeated listening, though it’s somewhat frustrating in consequence. One wonders what the forthcoming Tekhenu Retold remix companion will yield to augment the album’s already expansive scope.