Even while I loved Dirtmusic’s last album I still had a sneaking suspicion that they were musical tourists, out for the kudos rather than the music itself; they are definitely not because this album could not have been made without a deep understanding of the music, the peoples and the troubles of Mali.
What really makes this album special is that the jams that form the tracks on the album were recorded while the war was raging around the Moffou Club in downtown Bamako, Mali and the risks that all the musicians took just to be there mean that the music has a sense of danger and passion that astounded even me.
Chris Brokaw left the band after the ‘BKO’ album and the remaining members – Chris Eckman & Hugo Race – hooked up with musicians from Ben Zabo’s band and Samba Toure’s and set up shop in Salif Keita’s club. The sessions for this album (a second set is due early next year) included gusts like Virginie Dembele, Aminata Wassidje and Zoumana Tereta and the tracks are a mix of Songhai, Bambara, Tamasheq, English and rhythms from all over West Africa. The heart of the music is the ‘band’ but they are utterly flexible so that every track has its own character and identity but musically it has the mesmeric desert rhythms the band has become famous for but there is influence from all around them.
Personal favourites are the dark and pounding ‘Fitz Carraldo’ with vocals that seem to fly above the pounding music, dipping and wheeling like a bird of prey or ‘Troubles’ – driving guitar lines and aggressive vocals with just the right amount of Blues and chemical manipulation. ‘Wa Nuza’ features a wonderful vocal from Virgionie Dembele and some great electronic treatments from Hugo Race – a slow and deeply moving number that seems to cut right to the arteries ‘God Is A Mystery’ is as simple as it gets with Zoumana Tereta on vocals and the one stringed Soku over a deliciously solid bass line from Eckman.
The whole album feels fresh and loose (in the best sense) and it makes me look at Dirtmusic in a fresh manner – it is also damn good listening.