Consumer Guide Album
Tal National: Kaani [Fat Cat, 2013]
Seeking an adjective for this remarkable yet narrow international debut from the biggest band in Niger, I arrived at "terrific." Terrific in the honorific sense--real good album. But also terrific in the lost sense of deeply scary. Eight tracks lasting a mere 50 minutes (live, the story goes, they play five hours a night every night) and featuring a mere six musicians (live, apparently, substitutes switch off): two guitars, trap and tama drums, accommodating bass, and a singer whose day job is judge (but how long are his days?). And for 50 minutes the barrage never stops--"Sarkin Fada" mellows slightly, but in general two guitars are louder than one, the drummers bash and clash, the tempos speed on, and the judge declaims with the voice of authority. Because there's so little give in it, this isn't really groove music except in the sense that EDM is groove music--Syrian dabke, for instance, is sensuous and jolly by comparison. It's just rhythm music, on its own unrelenting terms.