Tinariwen ‎– Elwan

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I’ve been listening to Tinariwen for years, but digitally, so I thought it about time to pick up a an LP, and it happened to be in the shop at the same time as me, which was handy.

For anybody who doesn’t know them, their story is on worth hearing:


Tinariwen was founded by Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, who at age four witnessed the execution of his father (a Tuareg rebel) during a 1963 uprising in Mali. As a child he saw a western film (The Fastest Guitar Alive) in which a cowboy (played by Roy Orbison) played a guitar with a gun. Ag Alhabib built his own guitar out of a tin can, a stick and bicycle brake wire. He started to play old Tuareg and modern Arabic pop tunes. Ag Alhabib first lived in Algeria in refugee camps near Bordj Badji Mokhtar and in the deserts around the southern city of Tamanrasset, where he received a guitar from a local Arab man. Later, he resided with other Tuareg exiles in Libya and Algeria.

In the late 1970s, Ag Alhabib joined with other musicians in the Tuareg rebel community, exploring the radical chaabi protest music of Moroccan groups like Nass El Ghiwane and Jil Jilala; Algerian pop rai; and western rock and pop artists like Elvis Presley, Led Zeppelin, Carlos Santana, Dire Straits, Jimi Hendrix, Boney M, and Bob Marley. Ag Alhabib formed a group with Alhassane Ag Touhami and brothers Inteyeden Ag Ablil and Liya Ag Ablil in Tamanrasset, Algeria to play at parties and weddings. Ag Alhabib acquired his first real acoustic guitar in 1979. While the group had no official name, people began to call them Kel Tinariwen, which in the Tamashek language translates as “The People of the Deserts” or “The Desert Boys.”

In 1980, Libyan ruler Muammar al-Gaddafi put out a decree inviting all young Tuareg men who were living illegally in Libya to receive full military training. Gaddafi dreamed of forming a Saharan regiment, made up of the best young Tuareg fighters, to further his territorial ambitions in Chad, Niger, and elsewhere. Ag Alhabib and his bandmates answered the call and received nine months of training. They answered a similar call in 1985, this time by leaders of the Tuareg rebel movement in Libya, and met fellow musicians Keddou Ag Ossade, Mohammed Ag Itlale (aka “Japonais”), Sweiloum, Abouhadid, and Abdallah Ag Alhousseyni. All sang and played guitar in various permutations. The musicians joined together in a collective (now known as Tinariwen) in order to create songs about the issues facing the Tuareg people, built a makeshift studio, and vowed to record music for free for anyone who supplied a blank cassette tape. The resulting homemade cassettes were traded widely throughout the Sahara region.

In 1989, the collective left Libya and moved to Ag Alhabib’s home country of Mali, where he returned to his home village of Tessalit for the first time in 26 years. In 1990 the Tuareg people of Mali revolted against the government, with some members of Tinariwen participating as rebel fighters. After a peace agreement known as the Tamanrasset Accords was reached in January 1991, the musicians left the military and devoted themselves to music full-time. In 1992 some of the members of Tinariwen went to Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire to record a cassette at JBZ studios. They played occasional gigs for far-flung Tuareg communities throughout the Sahara region, gaining word-of-mouth popularity among the Tuareg people.

With their Saharan homeland now a conflict zone threatened by Salafist insurgents, they  recorded this seventh album partly in California’s Joshua Tree national park and partly camped at an oasis in southern Morocco.

In 1998, Tinariwen came to the attention of the French world music ensemble Lo’Jo and their manager Philippe Brix. That group traveled to a music festival in Bamako and met two members of the Tinariwen collective. In 1999 some members of Tinariwen traveled to France and performed with Lo’Jo under the name Azawad. The two groups organized the January 2001 Festival au Désert in Essakane, Mali with Tinariwen as the headliners, and in close cooperation with the Belgian Sfinks Festival. The festival brought much outside attention to Tinariwen. By the end of 2001, Tinariwen had performed at WOMAD and Roskilde. Tinariwen gained more attention overseas in 2004, with their first UK performance at the largest free African music festival in the country, Africa Oye. Their debut CD, The Radio Tisdas Sessions, was recorded by Justin Adams and Jean-Paul Romann at the radio station of the same name (the only Tamashek-speaking station in Kidal, Mali) and released in 2001. It was Tinariwen’s first recording to be released outside of northern Africa.

Since 2001 Tinariwen have toured regularly in Europe, North America, Japan, and Australia; often appearing at large world music/alternative festivals like Glastonbury, Coachella, Roskilde, Les Vieilles Charrues, WOMAD, FMM Sines, and Printemps de Bourges. Their 2004 album Amassakoul (“The Traveller” in Tamashek) and its 2007 follow-up Aman Iman (“Water Is Life” in Tamashek) were released worldwide and gained the notice of celebrity fans including Carlos Santana, Robert Plant, Bono and the Edge of U2, Thom Yorke of Radiohead, Chris Martin of Coldplay, Henry Rollins, Brian Eno, and TV On The Radio. In 2005 Tinariwen received a BBC Award for World Music, and in 2008 they received Germany’s prestigious Praetorius Music Prize.

Also since 2001, the Tinariwen collective has added several younger Tuareg musicians who did not live through the military conflicts experienced by the older members but have contributed to the collective’s multi-generational evolution. New members include bassist Eyadou Ag Leche, percussionist Said Ag Ayad, guitarist Elaga Ag Hamid, guitarist Abdallah Ag Lamida, and vocalists Wonou Walet Sidati and the Walet Oumar sisters. The band’s 2009 album Imidiwan (Tamashek for “Companions”) was recorded in a mobile studio by Jean-Paul Romann in the village of Tessalit, Mali.


Now we have Elwan:

Elwan (Elephants), is a powerful album which confronts their situation head-on, the songs reflecting on the values of ancestry, unity and fellowship, while hypnotic guitar grooves cycle and additional percussion adds intricacy to the sound.

“The Tenere has become an upland of thorns where elephants fight each other, crushing tender grass underfoot,” sings Ibrahim Ag Alhabib on “Tenere Taqqal”, lamenting their homeland’s use as battleground for struggles between elephantine power blocs beyond their control; while the abandonment of ancestral ways draws equal criticism on his own people in “Imidiwan N-Akall-In”: “All that’s left is a groaning land full of old people and children / Oh my brothers! You’re on the wrong path”. – The Idependant

I don’t understand the words of the songs, but the sound, the melancholy, the joy, convey all I need to know, it is felt rather than understood, at least by me. I did understand some on the track Nànnuflày, which has vocals by Mark Lanegan that kick in about half way through, in English.Other guest appearances are from Kurt Vile, Matt Sweeney, and Alain Johannes.

Tracklist

A1 Tiwàyyen (Electric Guitar – Kurt Vile, Matt Sweeney)
A2 Sastanàqqàm
A3 Nizzagh Ijbal
A4 Hayati
B1 Ittus
B2 Ténéré Tàqqàl
B3 Imidiwàn N-àkall-In
B4 Talyat (Cigarbox Guitar – Alain Johannes, Electric Guitar – Matt Sweeney)
C1 Assàwt
C2 Arhegh Ad Annàgh
C3 Nànnuflày (Electric Guitar – Kurt Vile, Vocals – Mark Lanegan)
C4 Intro Flute Fog Edaghan
C5 Fog Edaghàn

You have probably noticed that this double vinyl only has three sides, I didn’t, or almost didn’t, the fourth side is etched.

It is a wonderful album, not for everybody I’m sure, but anyone who has any time for world music of any kind should be able to make time for this.

Your F***ing Sunny Day (Episode 26)

  1. Boards of Canada – Reach for the Dead (from Tomorrow’s Harvest)
  2. RUN DUST “SO FAR”
  3. Gajek – Curved Engines pt. 04 (Plaid Remix)
  4. Gala Drop – You And I
  5. MONDKOPF – Cause & Cure (OFFICIAL)
  6. Massive Attack, Azekel – Ritual Spirit
  7. Solomon Grey – Choir To The Wild
  8. Mark Pritchard – Beautiful People (Official Video) ft. Thom Yorke
  9. björk: lionsong
  10. Max Richter – Richter: Three Worlds: Music From Woolf Works / Mrs Dalloway, In The Garden
  11. Mogwai – Killing All The Flies
  12. MONO – Dream Odyssey
  13. Spiritualized-Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space
  14. Akira Kosemura – You
  15. Four Tet – My Angel Rocks Back and Forth
  16. Lamb – Gorecki

Richard Pinhas ‎– Reverse

bb249_cover_rgbLast months vinyl from ‘That Special Record’ lay un-played for several weeks due to other commitments, which have left me unable to play very much of anything really, until there was a break in the clouds last week and there  was a shower of vinyl, not a downpour, but at least it was something. This was the first album I played, again, I was pretty much in the dark about it but after a bit of interweb research I was enlightened somewhat.

Pinhas was a member of ‘Heldon,’ a French electronic rock band created in 1974. The name of the band having been taken from the 1972 novel, ‘The Iron Dream’, by Norman Spinrad. Prior to that Pinhas was a member of the band ‘Schizo’, but both bands were led for the most part by Pinhas, who also released a host of albums under his own name.

Influenced by the work of Robert Fripp and Brian Eno, the music of Richard Pinhas and Heldon is sui generis and innovative and has in its turn greatly influenced the field of electronic rock.

I had to look up sui generis as I had no idea what it meant, apparently this is the definition:

Sui generis (/ˌs ˈɛnərɪs/Latin: [ˈsʊ.iː ˈɡɛnɛrɪs]) is a Latin phrase, meaning “of its (his, her, or their) own kind; in a class by itself; unique”. In the creative arts, where an artistic work goes beyond conventional genre boundaries.

So now I know. If you head over to the Bureau B website, there’s a nice press kit you can download should you be of a mind to, it’s here. Where they also share some snippets of the tracks so you can get an idea what it sounds like.

So what do I think of it? How do I feel my subscription to ‘That Special Record’ performed this month? Well, I think it’s bloody brilliant actually. It is not, as suggested, a series of 4 drones, it is much more than that and it is far too complex and interesting to be just called a drone. It is a fusion of different, interesting ideas into a new whole with elements of prog, kosmiche (Krautrock) and post-rock among the points of reference. It feels, at times, urgent and alive, with the percussion lifting the whole thing from a very interesting noise to something that is more tangible, more easily grasped, and the drums have a great live feel about them. The line up for this album, along with Pinhas is Arthur Narcy (drums), Florian Tatar (bass), Masami Akita (analog synths, recorded in Tokyo), son Duncan Nilson-Pinhas (digital synths), and William Winant (percussion, recorded in Oakland, CA, USA). At times they somehow manage to sound like an Orchestra so full is the sound.

Now this sort of thing, like many of the albums I like to listen to, isn’t for everybody, but there are times when taking a moment to just listen, to lose yourself in a vast landscape of sound, can bring you to a place you weren’t expecting and which you may just like. With this album I find myself at times listening to the intricacies of the performance and at others allowing the whole thing to wash over me, and this is a good thing as, to me, it means that it works on more than one level.

It’s not just me telling you, my two or three regular readers, that this is good stuff, other people are as well:

“Ecstatic psych burnouts from French prog visionary and friends” 8/10, Uncut (UK)

“Maverick French guitarist turns negative headspace into a kosmische positive” ****, Mojo (UK)

“Reverse sounds like rock music echoed out into the stratosphere” 7.2, Pitchfork

“This is music that demands and deserves our attention.” (The Quietus)

Brian Reitzell ‎– Auto Music

Who is Brian Reitzell? Good question, until last week I had absolutely no idea but I saw an album called ‘Auto Music’ by the man himself and it was super cheap, at £6, so I took a chance with it. Sometimes these things pay off, and this one did, massively, because I bloody love it!

So who is he? Well, he has contributed music to a fair few films and TV series, which you can see here if you are of a mind to: IMDB. According to Wikipedia ‘He is notable for working extensively with the American film director Sofia Coppola’, which is nice. The films in question are The Virgin Suicides, Lost in Translation, Marie Antoinette & The Bling Ring. Apparently he is a member of the (side project) synth pop band TV Eyes alongside Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. and Jason Falkner, but I hadn’t heard of them either.

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Auto Music is his only solo album, which was released by Smalltown Supersound on June 17, 2014. The opening track, Last Summer, doesn’t set the tone for the rest of the album as, thematically, it’s all over the place, and has been described as Reitzell lacking his own voice. I don’t mind that as I like the voices he borrows. ‘Auto Music’ for example is a direct nod to Kraftwerk and elsewhere there is a bit of Cluster, both great influences to have. In a world of recycled music, where most new releases sound like what has gone before, it is best to make sure that what you do is at least good, and not just lazy recycling, which Reitzell manages to do with this album. It’s very listenable and, to my mind at least, an absolute bargain at £6. There are also touches of Post-Rock floating about, which for me, is a very good thing indeed.

Tracklist

Last Summer 8:29
Ozu Choral 2:52
Ozu 7:02
Gaudi 7:24
Auto Music 1 9:42
Beehive 2:24
Oskar 5:09
Honeycomb 4:37
Auto Music 2 6:24

Below is Auto Music 2, which is where the Kraftwerk comparisons have been made, which I can hear, but it fells to me much more of an influence than anything and it does seem to me to have it’s own voice.

Life Garden – Songs From The Otherside Of Emptiness

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Last months vinyl from ‘That Special Record’ was ‘Songs From The Otherside of Emptiness’ by ‘Life Garden’ who were formed in 1989 from the ashes of Maybe Mental whose two core members were David and Su Ling Oliphant. They invited poet George Dillon to the group, but tragically he passed away by the time they released their debut “Caught Between the Tapestry of Silence and Beauty” (1991). Subsequently, Life Garden added Peter Ragan and Bill Yanok, who eventually departed in 1995. Life Garden broke up in 1999.

I had to look the above up as I had no idea, which is usual. The music is breathy, spectral 80’s electronic experimentation, probably post-industrial if it must be categorised and the album is a compilation of releases between 1991 and 1994 from the albums

Following the passing of  George Dillon the band began to shift from using synths and samplers to an all acoustic approach. Over several months, Su Ling and David developed a unique improvisational style using digital multi-effects and loopers to process Su’s vocals and a variety of percussion, string and wind instruments. This became the foundation of the Life Garden sound and forms the majority of tracks on the LP. It also comes with a 7″ single, which I haven’t had a chance to listen to yet, mostly because I haven’t had a chance to listen to very much of anything lately but also because the switch from 33 1/3 to 45 requires the adjusting of the drive belt, which is a pain. In hindsight I should have picked up a turntable with a switch for that, as I end up playing a load of 45’s & 12″ singles together, or a load of albums, and some of the albums are 45 rpm and some of the 12″ singles are 33 1/3, it’s just a bit restrictive. I actually listened to a PJ Harvey album at 33 1/3 and quite liked it, even though it all sounded rather depressing, it was much better at the correct speed.

I was quite surprised by this album when I finally managed to find the time to play it. It didn’t sound to me as though the music was 25 years old, perhaps because it has a timeless quality to it. I’ve included track 4 below, “I Comeforth By Day Singing”, which is a favourite of mine already from this album. In it I can hear elements of Dead Can Dance, A touch of Cocteau Twins overlayed with  sense of adhan, the Islamic call to worship.

Tracklist

A1 Zhen
A2 Du
A3 Seed
A4 I Comeforth By Day Singing
B1 Saura
B2 Three
B3 Marut
B4 Sem
7 inch 8
7 inch 6

This was a great pick by ‘That Special Record‘ I think as it is new to me, interesting and opens up new avenues for me to explore. I also really like it, which is the most important thing.

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