Mdou Moctar — „Afrique Victime“ [Deluxe Edition] (Feb. 24, 2022)
⊗ Tuaregský kytarista a jeho kolegové z kapely poskytují dosud nejúplnější obrázek o jeho darech. Album, nahrané po částech během přestávek na turné, zachycuje snadnou chemii a výbušnou energii skupiny.
Location: Agadez, Niger
Album release: Feb. 24, 2022
Record Label: Matador
01. Chismiten 4:58
02. Taliat 3:48
03. Ya Habibti 3:31
04. Tala Tannam 5:38
05. Untitled 1:25
06. Asdikte Akal 4:31
07. Layla 4:26
08. Afrique Victime 7:25
09. Bismilahi Atagah 5:36
10. Chismiten (Demo) 4:23
11. Taliat (Live) 5:48
12. Ya Habibti (Demo) 1:44
13. Tala Tannam (Demo) 1:16
14. Asdikte Akal (Live) 3:15
15. Layla (Live) 4:14
16. Afrique Victime (Live) 4:33
17. Bismilahi Atagah (Demo) 4:51
18. Nakanegh Dich (Demo) 4:14
By Sam Sodomsky | May 20, 2021 | Score: 8.4 BEST NEW MUSIC
⊗ If it were up to Mdou Moctar, the fiery, psychedelic rock music that has made him one of the most respected guitarists working today would be kept far away from professional recording studios. “With all due respect to all engineers,” the Tuareg virtuoso recently confessed to Reverb, “I find it much too square.” Late last year, the Nigerien musician gathered his bandmates outside a friend’s house in Niamey to test out material from Afrique Victime in a more comfortable environment. In the open air, the quartet quickly attracted an audience: adults dancing, children air~drumming, and others just watching in awe as Moctar’s songs ascended and burst in the desert sky like fireworks.
⊗ This communal atmosphere is the ideal setting for Moctar’s music, an adrenalizing take on assouf, or desert blues, that seems engineered to reach as many people as possible. His songs are often based on one~ or two~chord riffs. The lyrics, sung primarily in Tamasheq, delve into political subject matter, like imperialism or women’s rights, or more romantic reflections, like young love or the natural world. The magic happens when he starts soloing: a silvery, fluttering sound that ricochets from each surface like a rubber ball thrown into a small room. While his vocals are delivered in group chants or anthemic call~and~response, his guitar playing is a searing, untameable thing, always the star of the show.
⊗ Before he assembled his electrifying band — with rhythm guitarist Ahmoudou Madassane, drummer Souleymane Ibrahim, and bassist Mikey Coltun — Moctar searched for a proper runway for these ascensions. A far cry from the blistering, live~band sound he favors now, Moctar’s first studio album proposed a kind of burbling sci~fi folk featuring his Auto-Tuned vocals over acoustic guitar and drum machines. He attributes this style to his primary influence, the Nigerien guitarist Abdallah Ag Oumbadougou, whose hypnotic songs of perseverance and rebellion inspired Moctar to build his own guitar when he was a child.
⊗ As Moctar’s recordings have evolved, the constant has been his distinctive playing. Left~handed and self~taught, Moctar developed a style of brushing the strings with his left index finger in furtive, constant motions while his right hand gallops along the fretboard, building melodies from nimble hammerons, often filtered through a series of pedals that creates the sound of a metallic, echoing siren. As evidenced by a charming interview with Dweezil Zappa, Moctar can easily mimic the style of Western guitarists he admires — like Jimi Hendrix, a common influence among Tuareg guitarists, or Eddie Van Halen, whose tapping style he only recently became familiar with. Like these guitar heroes, Moctar’s playing has become a recognizable voice no matter the context: whether he’s playing acoustic or electric, on a protest song about colonialist violence or a Bonnie “Prince” Billy track.
⊗ Afrique Victime is the fullest portrait of Moctar’s gifts that he has offered yet. To capture the explosive, uncontainable sound of the band’s performances, Coltun once again handled production duties, recording on breaks during a long tour behind 2019’s breakthrough Ilana (The Creator). The band’s only member not originally from Niger, Coltun spent his formative years in D.C. punk and attempted to sculpt the group’s long jam sessions into the tent poles of a rock record. Listening to opening track “Chismiten,” you can hear the tighter structure working in their favor: Pivoting around Moctar’s solos, the song constantly revs up, building speed and momentum, like a motorcycle racing up a mountain.
⊗ In longer songs, like the epic title track, the band settles into a groove: The colossal jam at the end puts a spotlight on drummer Ibrahim, whose filtered tom rolls add a sense of surreal world~building to their raw performance. Moctar’s climactic solo, meanwhile, veers into newly chaotic territory, as close to pure noise as he has ever come. To accompany these peaks in energy, the band experiments with quieter textures — the acoustic blues of “Layla,” the spacey ballad “Tala Tannam” — and scene~setting flourishes. A brief, untitled interlude separates the album’s two sides: a field recording that attempts to bring the outside world inside the studio, to better situate the material around it.
⊗ While these songs play like joyous surges of inspiration, Moctar has discussed the music with deep intensity, even melancholy. He spoke at length about the atrocities in Niger over the past year, adding to the urgency of his calls to action in the title track: “If we stay silent, it will be the end of us.” Moctar’s current focus is on building wells throughout local villages, for people who have been deprived of water and electricity. In its righteous, inventive way, his music is also part of his ongoing effort to aid people: “My wish is that the new generation of musicians will continue to flourish and develop,” he explained to Dazed Digital. You get the sense that when the lights go down and he looks out at the audience, he doesn’t just see his community: He sees the future.