Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Tal National

  • Kaani [Fat Cat, 2013]
  • Kaani [Fat Cat, 2013] A-
  • Zoy Zoy [Fat Cat, 2015] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Kaani [Fat Cat, 2013]
[2013 Dean's List: 76]

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. A-

Zoy Zoy [Fat Cat, 2015]
More happens here than on the debut: Tuareg moves and Malian ululations and Congotronic clatter and highlife memories, forgiving tempo shifts and a drum solo struggling to be free. The many-faceted title "tune" shows off moving parts you'll never keep up with as it stampedes past, and the grooves vary noticeably track to track--which isn't to suggest that the energy ever slackens. In short, a band capable of striking fear in the hearts of anti-immigrationists all over their cryogenic cradles of Western civilization. A-