By: Dennis Cook
Simply put, Tinariwen creates a sound like no other. Nomadic, South Saharan folk music meets eloquent and unruly electric guitars, murmuring hand percussion, and a folksy, small choir-like vocal blend, and together it's some of the most exciting music to emerge from Africa in the past decade. Without understanding a word, the feeling of it reaches into the core of you. Such suffering (wars, hunger, exile, death) underlies each note that definitive vocabulary is unnecessary. Tinariwen also brings one back to the revolutionary days of Jimi Hendrix, Jerry Garcia, and other major '60s spear-tips that rammed electric guitar forward. There's something powerfully fresh about what Tinariwen does with the instrument, and their latest, Imidiwan: Companions (released October 13 on World Village/Independiente), continues their evolution.
Exploring a more melodic bent this time around, perhaps something a touch less alien to Western ears, the Tuareg group's trajectory still feels entirely organic and individual. If one picks up on blues echoes or the chiming repetition of King Sunny Ade, then they're probably hearing things right, but none of the hazy signposts really explicate the cloudy, enveloping haze Tinariwen kicks up. There's a warm simmer to much of Imidiwan: Companions that's oddly in sync with the original Fillmore blues-psych bands, particularly Quicksilver Messenger Service and Spirit. Nothing quite goes where you suspect but the journey – quite logically for a band of literal nomads – is endlessly fascinating.
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