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Mark Kidel

Tamikrest’s fourth album is well-presented, good enough, but a little hamstrung by what have become the clichés of the modern Touareg genre: the lilting rhythms of a camel cruising slowly across the dunes, intertwined guitars that smoothly swirl bewteen old Tamashek melodies and gentle riffs that might have come from the Deep South. The lyrics touch on the politics of the Southern Sahara, and the Touaregs’ tragic position at the mercy of conflicting interests – political, economic and religious.

Music that bewitches around a campfire, under the vast canopy of the Milky Way doesn’t have the same effect back in Europe. It’s a little like imagining ouzo or pastis will taste the same under the blanket of clouds that we Brits like to call home.

This is Tamikrest’s fourth album. They are the main rivals of Tinariwen for the crown of Touareg rock, a cousin of the desert blues made popular by Ali Farka Touré and Songhoy Blues. This latest CD differs only slightly from earlier offerings. Production by Mark Mulholland doesn’t stray too far from the heart of this languorous music: there is nothing to complain about, but nothing to rave about, either. In some ways, tasteful can mean bland. At times, things take off: as on the beautifully slow and meandering “Atwitas” with slide guitar reminiscent of Ry Cooder’s duets with Ali Farka Touré, and the almost folky acoustic guit ...

Tamikrest’s fourth album is well-presented, good enough, but a little hamstrung by what have become the clichés of the modern Touareg genre: the lilting rhythms of a camel cruising slowly across the dunes, intertwined guitars that smoothly swirl bewteen old Tamashek melodies and gentle riffs that might have come from the Deep South. The lyrics touch on the politics of the Southern Sahara, and the Touaregs’ tragic position at the mercy of conflicting interests – political, economic and religious.

Music that bewitches around a campfire, under the vast canopy of the Milky Way doesn’t have the same effect back in Europe. It’s a little like imagining ouzo or pastis will taste the same under the blanket of clouds that we Brits like to call home.

This is Tamikrest’s fourth album. They are the main rivals of Tinariwen for the crown of Touareg rock, a cousin of the desert blues made popular by Ali Farka Touré and Songhoy Blues. This latest CD differs only slightly from earlier offerings. Production by Mark Mulholland doesn’t stray too far from the heart of this languorous music: there is nothing to complain about, but nothing to rave about, either. In some ways, tasteful can mean bland. At times, things take off: as on the beautifully slow and meandering “Atwitas” with slide guitar reminiscent of Ry Cooder’s duets with Ali Farka Touré, and the almost folky acoustic guitar on “Adat Osan Itibat”.

The German label Glitterbeat are finding plenty of new sounds out there, but this isn’t one of them – even though a pleasant enough album. Better to turn to their recently released album Targ, where Bargou 08, a collective of Tunisian and European musicians produce a mesmeric mix of traditional Berber wind instruments, vocals and percussion, sensitively treated with barely noticeable electronics. Here, new frontiers of sound are explored, setting ancient music in a thoroughly contemporary context, whereas with Tamikrest, the same old desert sounds now ring a little jaded.

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