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Tamikrest - Tamotait - lp -

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Let us get the backstory out of the way first. Like their antecedents Tinariwen – one of the greatest bands in the world, bar none – members of the mostly Tuareg collective Tamikrest have not been able to return to their home region of Kidal in Mali for a long while thanks to violent unrest - and some people are upset because they can’t go to the shops. They move between Tamanrasset in the Ahaggar Mountains of southern Algeria, and Paris, and recorded most of this record in rural France, working with producer Dave Odlum, a man who might be familiar to Irish music fans as a former member of both Kíla and The Frames, and for his work with Gemma Hayes. Crucially, he’s worked with Tinariwen in the past, sharing a Grammy win for their 2011 album, Tassili, and also mixed the last Tamikrest album, Kidal.

It certainly a more interesting bio than you get with the latest indie releases – we met at school and bonded over our shared love for Arctic Monkeys, etc. – but it wouldn’t matter much if the music wasn’t any use. This new record – their fifth - could, like Tinariwen, fall under the category of ‘Desert Blues’ but it would be a shame to see it pigeon-holed it into any ‘world music’ ghetto, as this is vital, accessible rock n’ roll that deserves to be widely heard.
Opening track ‘Awnafin’ swirls, sways and heaves into view, guitars form into riffs, percussion builds, Aghaly Ag Mohamedine’s vocals are added, and then the drums and bass break in and most empathically kick out the jams. The hi-hat opens and closes as the guitars coalesce further, the backing vocals chant out their refrain, the beat drops out with just a bass drum driving things, before it all comes crashing in for a guitar solo with no fat on it at all. It’s one of most stirring pieces of music you are likely to hear this year. You could say the same for the djembe-driven ‘Amidinin Tad Adouniya’, and they do it again with ‘Anha Achal Wad Namda’. It sounds like a (sand) storm coming in, as the guitar feeds back and it all revs up like late-period Led Zep about to take the chocks away from the wheels, then the drums take everything double-time, and if your head is attached to a neck at all, it’s shaking. The song’s got a great ending too.

'Tabsit’ draws a line from Africa to Japan with the help of shamisen and tonkori augmentation, courtesy of Aysushi Sakta and Oki Kano, while ‘Timtarin’, which snakes slowly into view, is lifted by the vocals of Moroccan singer Hindi Zahra – not, as I thought when I first heard her burst into English with “We are all fallen stars”, Sinead O’Connor – before it kicks properly into gear. ‘Azawad’ and ‘Amzagh’ are both gentle things – although they still give the drummers some - that evoke the band’s lost homeland, as are ‘Tihoissay’ and ‘As Sastnan Hidjan’ The lyric, both spoken and sung, refers to a “rebellious spirit, born of cruelty”, a line which holds a poetry all of its own.

One of the possible translations of the word Tamikrest is junction, which is an accurate word to describe this music where one tradition – the music of West Africa – meets another – the music of the West. The two strands have combined to create one of the best rock n’ roll albums of the year.

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