Thursday, May 20th, 2021
By Dustin Krcatovich
Tuareg songwriter/guitarist Mdou Moctar first wriggled into broader consciousness a decade ago with “Tahoultine,” a song on the compilation Music from Saharan Cellphones. It was a standout on the album partly due to its strangeness—a blend of Tuareg guitar, slightly clipped Auto-Tune, and chintzy drum machines that burrowed deep into your consciousness. Personally, I honestly didn’t expect to hear more from him.
Christopher Kirkley, who assembled and released the aforementioned comp on his Sahel Sounds label, wouldn’t settle for this. He tracked down Moctar, cast him in a remake of Purple Rain (Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai) that was the first feature film in the Tuareg language, and helped get him out on tour. Since then, Moctar has built a fanatical following in North America and Europe. As output increased, his sound crystallized into a music which takes the traditional assouf playing style and grafts it onto Van Halen pyrotechnics and increasingly trippy production.
Afrique Victime marks a move to Matador (the almost-majors?), his first major worldwide release for a label other than Sahel Sounds. It retains the magic of previous releases, but it’s more expansive, massive even. “Asdikte Akal” is a dancefloor burner with hard rock heft; acoustic-leaning tracks like “Layla” and “Tala Tannam” are somehow both stately and propulsive. The dreamy, celebratory closer “Bismilahi Atagah” almost sounds like a Tuareg take on Sung Tongs-era Animal Collective, except better than that comparison makes it sound (not hatin’, just sayin’).
As it becomes safe to go out again, seeing these songs live should be as early a priority as is reasonable. Until then, as we tiptoe into the restrictions-easing summer, Afrique Victime should absolutely be the backyard BBQ blaster for any discriminating listener. If someone disagrees, kick ‘em out. They don’t deserve that hot dog, anyway. (www.mdoumoctar.com)
Author rating: 8/10
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