From between Timbuktu, which despite what you may have been taught as a child isn't as far away as you may think, and Gao come Songhoy Blues, a band who play some of the traditional styles of the Songhoy and blues. Fleeing unrest in their homeland, they play ‘in exile’. Oumar Toure, Aliou Toure and Garba Toure blend the styles beautifully and seamlessly. CD and vinyl on Transgressive.
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Songhoy Blues are a rock ‘n’ roll outfit tributing the eponymous Songhoy, a group who reside in Mali by the Niger River. On ‘Music In Exile’, the band’s influences range from the also eponymous blues and the sound of old school rock bands known for being awesome at showing off. They make a sound that unwinds around nifty guitar tricks and repetitive riffs that never quite feel like they’re being repeated -- in part because the corresponding vocal harmonies are spread out across songs, changing and adapting constantly. ‘Music In Exile’ is a record of both hypnosis and surprise.
‘Music In Exile’ is often an exuberant and rapidly moving record -- its guitars are swift and initially mostly impressive, before they’re joined by interesting and collaborative songwriting -- but its best moments come when the band slow down and create quiet, collected and measured jams: “Sekou Oumarou” is based around brooding guitars and softly clicked percussion, while “Nick” is navigated by a sturdy and reluctant bassline that allows for both a tricky rhythm and a big climax with a well-deserved solo. It’s these moments that feel most interesting to follow -- Songhoy Blues are so good at taking us down melodic mazes, but they’ve even better at guiding us through them.
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