There is a hazy expansiveness to Tuareg band Tinariwen’s music that recalls the desert setting in which it was created. Fuzzy guitars are rhythmically picked over undulating rhythms and gravelly baritone vocals; it is almost as if you can hear a sand-laden breeze passing between the mics as the band record.
Amadjar features a host of impressive guests, including Bad Seeds co-founder Warren Ellis looping a plaintive violin line on Mhadjar Yassouf Idjan and bowing with distorted reverb on the clattering Iklam Dglour, while guitarist Cass McCombs provides a floating falsetto melody and oneiric spoken word for Kel Tinawen. But the true artistry comes from the deft interplay between the younger and long-serving members of Tinawiren: percussionist Said Ag Ayad’s polyrhythms with bassist Eyadou Ag Leche, the joyous choral backing vocals from all members, and, crucially, the weather-worn delivery of founding lead singer Ibrahim Ag Alhabib tying each composition together.
This is a band that has been in existence, in one form or another, since 1979. Never resorting to cliche, they continue to be just as inspired by the universal themes of love, politics and nature as they always have been. Their musical delivery is just as heartfelt and forceful for it.