tue 21/01/2020

CD: Kel Assouf - Black Tenere | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Kel Assouf - Black Tenere

CD: Kel Assouf - Black Tenere

Saharan fire burns but a little too relentlessly

Blues from the desert's blue men

Tinariwen and others have made taken the haunting sonorities and lolloping camel rhythms of the Sahara far and wide. Kel Assouf are the next wave, more deeply soaked in the rock energy of bands like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath or Queens of the Stone Age.

Sofyann Ben Youssef, the band’s keyboardist and producer of the album brings to the mix a subtle infusion of electronics as well as a taste for trance-inducing repetition and psychedelic textures that works well with the force of Kel Tamsahek (Tuareg) music, and yet doesn’t fully avoid the sameness that characterises so much of this music, not least on disc rather than in a live setting.Tracks like “Ubary”, “America”, “Tenere”, and not least “Fransa” which evokes the violence of French colonialism, explode with anger driven by fierce drumming and distorted guitar. This can feel, after a while, like a relentless and monochrome assault on the senses.

With “Alyochan”, the pace remains fast, but the production takes the clichés of desert rock and blues into new territory, playing with the mind-altering repetition which characterises so much of the music of the Maghreb, layering in electronic and keyboard colour that gives depth to the music, and which producer Ben Youssef explore with such inventiveness on the album Ammar 808.

Some of the most beguiling material comes on the slower, more meditative songs, “Ariyal” and “Tamatant”, the later a hymn to the duty of resistance but offered in the spirit of less is more, a call to inner strength rather than a call to arms.

The use of reverb which runs through the album evokes widescreen visions of the vast desert sky. It stays just the right side of cliché. Ben Youssef throws in some moody organ too, echoing the sound of late Sixties blues and soul-inflected rock.  This too makes Kel Assouf a departure from the well-trodden camel routes that have threatened to make Saharan rock a little too predictable and – paradoxically – safe.

The production takes the clichés of desert rock and blues into new territory


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters