Words by Nigel Williamson
Proof there’s no such thing as too much good desert blues
Can you have too many Touareg guitar records? Not when they’re as potent as this second album from Kel Assouf, which rocks harder than perhaps anything yet to emerge from the genre. The rock heft comes from the distinctly non-Touareg rhythm section of bassist Mathieu Mirol and drummers Sam Gysel and Alex Rodembourg, whose grooves pound and shake like a cross between Black Sabbath, Led Zep, Queens of the Stone Age and Rachid Taha at his heaviest. The keyboards of producer Sofyann Ben Youssef add further textures seldom heard in desert blues and the guitar-playing of the band’s leader Anana Harouna is quite different from the serpentine template created by Tinariwen.
Perhaps it’s because Harouna has spent the last decade in Brussels, but this is a distinctly urban take on a desert nomad’s reverie. Toulou Kiki Bilal adds female backing vocals and percussion and wrote three of the dozen songs. But the narrative belongs to Harouna, from the militancy of ‘Medden’ on which he pays tribute to the ‘Sahara’s fighters’ and ‘our martyrs’ sacrifices,’ to the jagged rock thump of ‘Europa’, in which he describes the years of exile and dreams of returning home.