They’re keen this new generation of Kel Tamashek rockers, these self-styled spiritual sons of Tinariwen. Little more than a year after their atmospheric debut album Adagh comes this solid follow-up to consolidate the band’s place at the peak of the rockiest end of the desert blues outcrop.
The Tinariwen comparisons inevitably remain – from frizzy-haired Ibrahim-a-like lead singer Ousmane Ag Mossa, through lyrics that focus on the Touareg struggle for autonomy and nomadic freedom, to the vocal ululations and rhythmic undulations that add texture to ringing electric guitar lines. The Tamikrest template is clear, forceful electric guitar winding over a relaxed groove, with Mossa’s earnest vocals backed by the pulsing drone of rhythm and bass guitars (there should be a collective noun for this ubiquitous desert blues rumble – a tremor of Touareg guitars perhaps?).
The solemnity of the lead vocalist is uplifted by the exultant ululations of female backing singers, who also provide alluring responses to the lead singer on the funky love song Tarhamanine Assinegh and the twisting Tidit, a tune that seems to channel mid-70s American blues-rock as well as the best of Tamikrest’s fellow Touareg spiritual travellers Terakaft. Elsewhere, on the stripped back Aidjan Adaky, Mossa’s heartfelt vocal rides on a hypnotic wave of feedback and sustain.
It almost goes without saying – and indeed seems pretty much de rigeur at the moment to point out with each new Touareg release - that overall the album doesn’t break much new ground, although Tamikrest do absorb tinges of country- and blues-rock guitar into their sound. On the one occasion when they do try to cross-over into western rock terrain, on the album’s closer Dihad Tedoun Itran, the result is an incongruous clash between country rock, heavy metal guitar, viola and a 4/4 drumbeat. Most uncharacteristic for a band of subtle rhythmic pull, and a reminder perhaps that this music is indeed like the camels that are so often used as a metaphor to describe it - at its best taking steady steps forward, absorbing the sustenance of other styles when required but likely to stumble and fall if asked to move too quickly onto unfamiliar ground.