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Reviews

Tal National
Tantabara Richard Foster , April 3rd, 2018 07:53

A band who will make you happy, with tessellate rhythms, inchoate guitar rhythms and undulating sonic pathways

Tal National's new record is both a finely crafted essay in the ‘classical’ [sic] African popular music tradition and an incredibly giving document that could open doors to a bigger story. It manages to serve up the frenzy of their previous Fat Cat releases (Zoy Zoy and Kaani) and lay the foundations for a much wider audience.

The cornerstones of Tal National’s sound are present, their diffuse bustling racket borne aloft by what on first listen sounds like a series of impossibly tessellate 12/8 rhythms and inchoate guitar patterns. The band seek out the most undulating sonic pathways. They are a brilliant, experienced live band revelling in maximum effect, looking to shock through crashing arpeggios and about-turns, freaking out the uninitiated on goggle-eyed trips like ‘Akokas’ and ‘Belles Reines’. But this record is also an easy, poppy listen. They use a different vocalist on every track on Tantabara but the overarching idea of what polyphony can bring serves as a key binding agent throughout. Like some crazy soup, Tantabara has the ability to accommodate everything.

Tracks like ‘Entente’ and ‘Pama’ are outstanding inner journeys that wend their way through the listener’s mind, pointing to as-yet-unknown psychic or high magicke possibilities. Tal National create sonic and psychic pathways, making music that clashes and rubs up against other places, real or imagined. They are highly skilled in making people happy, after years of working long club nights in Niamey and across Niger, and travelling the world to further their sound. This record sounds like a live set, expertly translated to a recorded format (the producer is Chicago-based engineer Jamie Carter). On the opening track, ‘Tantabara’, gives the feeling that we are at the fairground; the twin vocals sound like a pair of fairground barkers getting you onto the dodgems. This ‘entertainers’ vibe is kept fresh throughout and with a great amount of brio, sometimes reaching states of majesty with tracks like ‘Duniya’. The record ends brilliantly with the superb one-two of ‘Trankil’, a truly brilliant pop track, and the immensely sympathetic ‘Aminiata’. The brisk, crisp, ‘that’s your lot’ ending on each of these two tracks somehow makes listening in so much more enjoyable.

Tal National play at Port Eliot and Womad this year, more UK dates to be announced

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