Aman Iman (Water is Life)
Reviewed on April 15, 2008
The third bite of the apple for the Tuareg group Tinariwen comes after a great deal of international touring and acclaim. In their wake a lot of bands playing a similar spare desert blues style have released CDs, but they remain the assured, undoubted leaders of the pack. There’s still a breathtaking spontaneity about the music (perfectly displayed by “Ahimana”), but there’s also a strong discipline and economy to the sound. It’s all wonderfully layered, built around hypnotic rhythms or guitar riffs, whether on the rolling “Toumast” or the slower “Soixante Trois,” with a natural sense of vast spaces in their playing that carries the listener into the grandeur of the alien landscape that fills “Imidiwan Winakalin.” They can become surprisingly funky, as on “Tamatant Tilay,” before bringing everything gently to rest with the acoustic “Izarharh Tenere,” a lilting, glistening pillow of a song. Listening to them is like hearing the raw, primal roots of rock’n’roll, finding the Ur-text of modern musical history, a wonderful voyage of discovery that leaves your sense of the world slightly changed. That’s a tall order for any group, but these nomads manage it. The only problem is, that’s a huge responsibility to live up to in future.