Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2011-05-31


Bombino: Agadez (Cumbancha, 2011) Omara Moctar--the "Al" has fallen into disuse as he internationalizes--remains easily the loveliest of the Tuareg guitarists to come our way, and in fact this album was begun in the Cambridge, Massachusetts, home studio of a filmmaker who documented the Tuaregs' battle for autonomy in Niger. He's absorbed many Western guitarists into a style few will hear as Western without a cheat sheet, and sings quietly, like he's thinking about it. Relative to most Tuareg music, the result is pretty tame. But its directness and calm take on spiritual weight when you learn that Bombino lost two members of his band during the most recent phase of the now quiescent and perhaps permanently resolved war. Cumbancha's representatives to the world congress tend polite, but as a corollary the label considers it good manners to offer expanded explanation, documentation, and visualization online. Avail yourself. A-

Nine 11 Thesaurus: Ground Zero Generals (The Social Registry, 2011) I swear I didn't know they were backed by "Representing NYC, a volunteer network of artists interested in youth development in Bushwick, Brooklyn"; such was the cover art that I didn't even absorb their wonderful name at first. I just liked the beats, which as it turns out were overseen by members of Gang Gang Dance and Skeletons--electro with quirkier hooks and more sonic range. Several of these five MCs having lost family members in the WTC attack, they take for their motto "when the towers fell we rose." Consistently political without a hint of truther nutballism, they can rhyme and they can rap. "In the middle of the globe as the earth dies slow dies slow," they sound as disconsolate as they should. Claiming "Rookie of the Year" they cheer up, as they also should. A-

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