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Tinariwen : Elwan

9.5

Reigning from the now war-torn Sahara Desert region of northern Mali, Tinariwen’s Elwan sees the seven-piece capturing the nostalgia of their once-harmonious homeland and the tragic circumstances they have faced after being forced into exile. The band’s eighth album to date could not have been unveiled at a more appropriate time.
 
Confronting the political, military and humanitarian issues currently residing on their desert home, Tinariwen have utilised the sheer strength of their convictions to create a record which is equally powerful. Ténéré Tàqqàl (What’s Happened to the Desert) brings the guitar-poets talent to the forefront and bleeds a sorrowful-filled vocal performance. Illustrating the musical wanderers’ sense of loss and grief, the sound of Tinariwen has never been so vivid.
 
Recording the album in California’s Joshua Tree Park and southern Morocco, the depth presented in Elwan’s production is well above par. Perfectly lush and precisely lavished, Sastanàqqàm (I Question You) pours out profound guitar tones on top of an unexpected driving drum beat groove. Mirroring the chaos of their territory’s heart-wrenching state, Tinariwen’s emotional and instrumental ranges are equally mesmerising.
 
The purity of the sounds and ideals that build Elwan is clearly the record’s strong suit. Transcending the boundaries of a possible language barrier, the emotive nature of the Tamashek vocalists is beyond explanation. As if the abilities of the collective weren’t already enough, the album features impressive collaborations with Kurt Vile, Mark Lanegan, Alan Johannes and Matt Sweeney.
 
Reaching into the joyous past to emphasize the devastating present, Tinariwen have used their musical and spiritual presence to share the urgency of such issues with listeners. Ultimately, the influence of Elwan cannot and will not be overlooked.
 
By Phoebe Robertson