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Group Inerane - Guitars from Agadez, Vol. 3

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Artist: Group Inerane

Album: Guitars from Agadez, Vol. 3

Label: Sublime Frequencies

Review date: Oct. 14, 2010


Group Inerane - "Tamidit In Aicha" (Guitars from Agadez, Vol. 3)


The first Group Inerane record was the shit. A perfect blend of cyclical Saharan modality, cutting melodies, a near-infinite expansiveness and ecstatic female backing vocals, Guitars from Agadez Vol. 1 swirled and hummed with transcendent precision and beauty. Not only that, but the back story was pretty crazy, too ó rebel music from Nigerís nomadic Tuareg people, these guys were involved in a political struggle that has since taken the lives of one of their members. Most bands have tour stories about flat tires or sketchy motels.

It was also a surprise seeing it on Sublime Frequencies, a label with a reputation for haphazard, if sometimes compelling travel collages that were sorely neglecting in artist credit. But instead of the usual night sounds of Bali or whatever, here we had an actual album by a single band, just like any other label. Thankfully, theyíve kept it up with the Guitars from Agadez series and the Group Doueh records. Nice work, guys.

So now, a couple years later we get the second Group Inerane album, and itís also quite good. There are some marked differences between the bandís debut and this one, which might jolt at first. That said, there are just as many similarities, so if you loved the first one, youíre certainly in for a treat. Still safely in place: the hypnotic, aqueous lull of the low end, the wide-open sound and freewheeling songwriting, and the breathtaking musical interplay. These guys are still way in the zone, and the record does what it can to capture that. If you are looking for baroque flourishes, catchy choruses, production tricks, key changes or lots of variety from song to song, donít waste your time here. Guitars burns and sways and breathes, but it doesnít do party tricks.

Which is great. The world can always use more chemistry, such a rare commodity in our ever-expanding universe of music. Listening to Inerane as I write this, Iím reminded of Neil Young and Crazy Horse in their no-frills approach to playing. Setting oneís sights squarely, obsessively on interplay, on vibe, can conjure a music that is ferociously about music, rather than the architecture of music. A paradoxical concept on paper, perhaps, but a revelatory experience when heard.

The only rub is that there arenít so many hits this time out. The lineup shift caused by the tragic death of second guitarist Adi Mohammed has taken Inerane into a darker-hued territory, with plenty of shadow and spiraling guitar interplay but less melodic clarity. On Vol. 1, the spectrum of sound was wide open ó the female singers positively soared above the effortless melodies, which in turn were anchored by the undulating basslines and countermelodies. Here, the ladies are all but absent, and the rhythms often adopt a bluesy shuffle. It feels like the party has wound down a bit, most everyoneís gone home, and the late-night jam session is well underway.

Thatís cool, and it yields rewards. After all, none of these songs comes remotely close to a stinker. Playing the worst cut off Vol. 3 next to, say, a Real Estate track (or any other indie band that trades in looping modal riff-outs) would put those boys in their place. But by the same token, nothing leaps out as a single, or even a hook. Thus, you might want to save this one till well after the sunís set and youíve settled in for a long night. Thereís a power at work here that doesnít adapt well to the mundane comforts and perils of office life, that doesnít reveal itself easily. But itís there, simmering and beautiful and a little scary. Iíve been listening to Vol. 3 over the past few weeks and itís been a slow process, the music revealing itself to me a little bit at a time, confident but turned slightly away. How often does that happen?

By Daniel Martin-McCormick

Other Reviews of Group Inerane

Guitars from Agadez (Music of Niger)

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