Jerusalem In My Heart’s second album bristles with all the forward momentum that was lurking just below the surface of its debut release. Noted producer Radwan Ghazi Moumneh is in charge of the sonic aspect of the Montreal-based audiovisual duo, and his work digests a number of startlingly heterogenous elements. As If He Dies . . . unfolds, the emphasis on each of these aspects shifts, demarcating a strange but cohesive formal arc.
The record opens with Moumneh’s voice atop a bed of warm, vocoded synthesizer. As he glides into his strident upper register, the backing textures seem to engulf him—to eerie, if suffocating, effect. A train of sequenced pulsations form the engine of “A Granular Buzuk” and frame the ensuing freeform dance of sonic colours. This includes the titular processed buzuk (a metal-strung Middle Eastern lute) and distinctive chiming of guest Sharif Sehnaoui’s prepared acoustic guitar.
“7ebr El 3oyoun” begins similarly to the opening track—spare synthesizer supporting and, now, discreetly shadowing the vocal contours. Eventually a rock-derived foundation arrives, and the powerful drums and guitar propel it toward a sudden ending.
After the fitful avalanches of noise in “Qala Li Kafa Kafa Kafa Kafa Kafa Kafa” and the slow electro slink of “Lau Ridyou Bil Hijaz,” the latter part of the record settles into a more lyrical and traditional-sounding mode. The voice, buzuk, and flutes by David Gossage (on “Ah Ya Mal El Sham”) assume the focus, as the electronics offer peripheral environmental tints.
Where the distracted trajectory of JIMH's debut album occasionally undermined the import of its constituent tracks, the unconventional form of If He Dies . . .  arranges everything perfectly for the project’s deep, unsettling energy to flow unimpeded.