Ali Farka Touré had a fancy relationship with success outdoors Africa. It got here to him comparatively late in life – he was practically 50 when the music he’d been recording for a small French label because the mid-70s began attracting consideration in Europe and America – and he by no means appeared completely snug with it. His guitar taking part in was in contrast with that of blues legends together with Robert Johnson and John Lee Hooker, however he described the blues as “a kind of cleaning soap powder”. He would sometimes collaborate with western musicians, however informed one in all them, Ry Cooder, that America was “a spot of dangerous vitality” and a “non secular automobile park”. He offered a whole lot of 1000’s of albums and received Grammy awards, however was all the time wont to easily vanish again to Mali. He adopted his Cooder collaboration, 1994’s Speaking Timbuktu, by disappearing for 5 years and threatening to surrender music altogether: he appeared extra taken with farming within the village of Niafunké, his residence city, the place he finally turned mayor.
Maybe a want to step out of his father’s appreciable shadow has knowledgeable the method of Vieux Farka Touré. Definitely, he’s tried to court docket a mainstream viewers extra assiduously than his dad ever did. His eponymous 2007 debut album was swiftly adopted by a remix assortment, which streamlined his sound for dancefloors. He has toured the US and Europe relentlessly. And he groups up with the type of collaborators who push his music additional afield, amongst them Israeli composer and pianist Idan Raichel, jazz guitarist John Scofield and experimental US vocalist Julia Easterlin. His collaborative album with the latter, Touristes, featured covers of each Bob Dylan’s Masters of Warfare and Fever Ray’s I’m Not Executed. His newest collaboration may be his most spectacular up to now. Exhausting on the heels of June’s sparse, simple homage to his father’s sound, Les Racines, comes Ali, which reinterprets a few of his father’s best-known songs with Houston trio Khruangbin, a musical union that was apparently sealed in a London pub over fish and chips.
It’s an impressed selection. Since 2015, Khruangbin have specialised in a type of musical fusion that recollects the late trumpeter Jon Hassell’s notion of fourth world music, which drew from so many international sources that it ended up evoking another universe. Their sound has variously encompassed dub reggae, funk, Ethiopian jazz, Turkish psychedelia, south-east Asian pop and Latin American cumbia with out being dominated by any of them: on 2020’s fabulous Mordechai, the end result was hazily psychedelic, unplaceable and completely beguiling.
They’re on comparable type on Ali. For an album that was apparently recorded stay in underneath every week, its temper is essentially beatific and unhurried: should you have been casting about for one thing to at the least vaguely evaluate its sound to, you may decide on late-90s Air. Savanne is a track with a fairly sharp lyric – it bemoans the lot of the African diaspora working menial jobs for minimal pay, angrily protesting western intervention in African wars – however right here the distinction between the phrases and the music is hanging: they sound as in the event that they’re rising via a blissful haze, the vocals rendered distant with echo, far much less clear than the flurries of guitar that punctuate them. On different events, they hit on one thing virtually completely complementary: Diarabi’s story of romantic woe (she’s married another person after he did not stump up a dowry) is rendered as a completely beautiful, soft-focus R&B ballad, gilded with melancholy backing vocals.
That stated, you don’t want any understanding of the lyrics – or, certainly, data of Ali Farka Touré’s again catalogue – to seek out your self enraptured by the music right here. Tongo Barra is constructed round a winding, insistent funk groove; on Mahine Me, Khruangbin unexpectedly alight on an inflection in Touré’s guitar taking part in and encompass it with music that carries a definite trace of zydeco; Ali Hala Abada carries a hushed efficiency. Alakarra, in the meantime, spends virtually as a lot time very slowly fading in and really slowly fading out because it does at full quantity, as if its slow-motion loveliness is passing you by.
It’s an album you possibly can simply lose your self in, which is presumably the purpose: Vieux Farka Touré apparently declined to inform his fellow musicians what the songs have been known as earlier than recording them, wanting a “clear slate”. He acquired one: it’s usually fairly jolting to take heed to his dad’s unique variations after submerging your self in Ali’s luscious soundworld. Or, quite, every potentiates the opposite. In Khruangbin’s palms, Lobbo sounds not one million miles from lush 70s soul alongside the strains of William DeVaughn’s Be Grateful for What You Acquired, relocated to west Africa. It’s stunning, which solely makes the 1990 unique sound all of the extra sparse and haunting. A tribute that works completely in its personal proper, whereas casting new gentle on the music that impressed it, Ali is an excellent factor.
This week Alexis listened to:
Say She She – Prism
The fabulous title observe of the NY trio’s debut album: honeyed concord vocals, lo-fi digital soul backing.