Label: Dead Oceans
Release Date: September 23, 2022
Location: Bamako, Mali and Houston Texas
Vieux Farka Touré, legendary Malian guitarist and son of African desert blues pioneer Ali Farka Touré. has teamed up with Texan psych/surf/funk rock act Khruangbin in one of my new favourite collaborative efforts. Their shared excellence has resulted in the creation of a truly stunning album titled Ali.
Vieux’s music combines elements from across the musical spectrum, including everything from Malian folk and desert blues to reggae, soul and rock. He weaves this together seamlessly and shows that just as his father was before him, he is a truly a master of his craft. One can see why he chose to work with Khruangbin on this project, given their genre bending approach to music and excellent musicianship. Together the two elevate each other’s sound to create something on of a kind. Both acts have a smoothness and effortlessness to their sound that allows them to gel in a way that feels as if they had been playing together for years.
There’s a beauty here that most listeners should be able to appreciate regardless of their musical taste. You also don’t have to understand French to be able to appreciate Vieux’s vocals on the release, they captivate you just the same. That’s the thing about music of this nature, it transcends not just genre boundaries, but also language, cultural and geographic boundaries to speak to the listener’s inherent humanity. You can feel the passion and the love of music in every track and that essence carries over to you as a listener regardless of your own background or lived experiences.
While the album gels perfectly as a whole, each of its parts is a unique offering with enough variety to ensure that you never get bored with the release. You’ll find Vieux’s stunning guitar tone throughout the album and while that is a constant from start to finish, the way this work is presented and structured varies greatly. Khruangbin help to develop a lot of that variety by introducing new and exciting elements throughout the album. A lot of the time they set up a groove or energy and Vieux just rides it into something stunning. The use of layered vocals adds a lot of impact to the album as whole too, giving it a more spiritual sort of overall feel.
While this whole album is worth as much of your time as you can spare, one track in particular stood out to me and that is Diarabi. The song has an incredibly soothing melody to it and features relaxed but stunning guitar work and vocals. Honestly this track features some of my favourite guitar work of 2022 hands down. In fact I enjoyed the song so much that I covered it in my article 9 New World Music Songs That You Need To Hear last month, but that wasn’t enough and I felt that I had to give the full album the attention it deserved. While there are plenty of songs on Ali that are more interesting and exciting than Diarabi, none have quite the same moving quality to them. It’s this hard to define quality that makes the song so special.
So, take some time out of your day and enjoy what the album has to offer, you’ll come out all the better for it. This will be a great addition to your regular rotation to give you some variety and serves as an excellent palate cleanser between heavier or louder albums. Personally, I hope that this is just the start of a long and fruitful partnership for both parties.
Listen to and order the album: