Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba

  • Routes [Twelve Eight, 2018] A-
  • Nautilus [Waveshifter, 2021] B+

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Routes [Twelve Eight, 2018]
With North Carolina-based bassist-ethnomusicologist Jonathan Henderson by his side, Cissokho laid down kora and vocal leads in his Senegalese hometown before the two flew back the U.S. to add parts from Stateside folk, jazz, and classical musicians, some of them members of Cissokho's North Carolina band and others not. In short, the kind of well-intentioned cultural crossover that normally turns to mush or treacle. But this moderately miraculous album remains both chewy and savory. From the string quartet that complicates the traditional opener "Alla L'a Ke" to the sabar drums and female backups that fill out the equally traditional follow-up "Badima" to the horn and string sections that bulk up the climactic "Naamusoo" and the bird tweets, indigenous flutes, and sabars again that introduce "Night in M'Bour"'s grand finale, a genuinely and often beautifully syncretic evocation of a double identity it would be hard to match and impossible to duplicate. A-

Nautilus [Waveshifter, 2021]
The most substantive and hence coherent of five instrumental-cum-ambient limited-edition EPs released simultaneously by the onetime Pere Ubu synth chair, this opens with "Fog (Devil's Island Mix)" and never gets more entrancing than that track's seagull-accordion duet. But track two somehow maintains the mood by sampling gunshots and wrong-number messages, and all in all the album remains interesting enough to be mentioned in the same paragraph as Hassell & Eno, a compliment I last extended to the first Bktherula album, with which this has absolutely nothing else in common. B+