If you’ve heard Tinariwen before then Emmaar is, arguably, business as usual – a wonderful continuation of the sound that starts, so tightly coiled, in the electric guitar and proudly probing bass. It unfurls in jagged shapes, made to sit just so. The voice chanting around the guitar sound, the percussion propulsive, the groove never elusive, always right there in the heart of every song – in the very middle of every tune – the music coursing out from every side of that rhythmic heartbeat.
Once again these Tuareg people are on the run – this time the music was even recorded far from home, Joshua Tree, California being the desert they occupied to create this spiralling, surging, exciting set of songs.
The opening brace of Toumast Tincha and Chaghaybou is as good as this band has ever sounded, taking me back past Tassili (still a warm favourite) back to when I first hooked into this band’s sound via Amassakoul and The Radio Tisdas Sessions.
The snake-winding/snake-charming guitar remains the key ingredient and on Arhergh Danagh the vocals are then wrapped around that guitar sound right at emanating point.
A truncated version of the band performed at Wellington’s International Arts Festival two years ago, the political unrest made it unsafe for two of the band’s members to make the trip. While it was still a buzz to see them, to hear them, to wonder, wide-eyed, jaw slackened, as to just how this sound arrives and how perfect it sounds with what seems like almost no effort, it wasn’t as good as it should have been. You just knew that. Instantly.
Anyone put off by that live appearance, made to feel slightly underwhelmed, will be right back on the train with Emmaar, it’s the sound of the band at what feels like the peak of its powers. A music for everyone. I’d like to argue the only reason you can’t feel the pulse of this music (and the charge from it) is because you’re lacking any pulse yourself.
Koud Edhaz Emin is the sound of so many thousands of miles, of gunshots and the scars and wounds that politics can leave as its own type of weaponry; it’s the sound of searching on and travelling through famine, unrest, upheaval. Of shouldering it all, turning full face to the wind and ploughing a new song for a new day.
Emmaar is an unstoppable force. It might be the ultimate triumph – the one album you need to have, have to hear, from a band that’s never actually under-delivered on record. So while this is also just business as usual, it’s somehow so much more than that. Calling this the band’s best has to go some way toward hinting at the magic on offer. It really is a spellbinding set of tunes. So full of good-groove hooks, such heart here too amid but the sorrow and joy.