The Incendiary Sounds of Mdou Moctar

Man, what a tumultuous time I've had since last Thanksgiving! It started with a sudden medical problem which I thought would be cured with antibiotics that spiraled into the need for multiple procedures to determine if I had a fatal illness. If that weren't enough, I have been rear-ended twice in the past 8 months, with the most recent accident resulting in my car being totaled.  I found my quality of life reduced to a steady diet of working all day and then watching TV until it was time for bed. Throughout these months, my condition hasn't gotten any better and it has resulted in me not being able to consume a lot of the beverages and food that I love. It was difficult to deal with my girlfriend's Lyme disease prior to all of this happening, but now normal chores that I would do around the house or running errands are things that rarely occur due to my illness.

It's a slippery slope once you fall into the icy depths of depression, and the only person that can bring you back is yourself. Though, you can probably imagine that it's been really hard for me to fight the good fight, and feel like there is a point to all of this. Before these recent events, I could turn to music when I was struggling with depression and overwhelm, but lately not even music can provide the solace necessary to lift my spirits.

This bring me to the state of music today. Is it just me or is everyone ditching real instruments for synthesizers and programmed beats in 2019? Almost every single rock band has either incorporated synthesizers into their sound, or has completely changed their sound to fit current trends, with the most notable ones being Cate Le Bon and Unknown Mortal Orchestra.  I have no problem with artists exploring new sounds and finding new ways to express themselves, but I do have a problem with this when it's to the extent of softening their sound to appeal to the masses. People who have only just discovered Cate Le Bon after hearing her latest album Reward might not even realize that she's a stellar guitar player, because the new record primarily features artificial synthesizers and stale drum beats. I honestly found myself nodding off several times through my first couple listens to the record, wondering when is it going to get going with anything that resembles a rhythm.

Mdou Moctar- Ilana, The Creator

Unfortunately, this is the trend nowadays, and the millennials can't get enough of it. But, there will always be diamonds in the rough waiting to be discovered like Mdou Moctar's latest record Ilana, The Creator.  After being able to check out Mdou Moctar's electrifying live show a couple years ago, I have been waiting for him to come out with a record that captures that same level of intensity and excitement that I felt that night. While the entire album is under 40 minutes, these songs give the illusion of lasting longer than they actually are due to the tight rhythm section spinning hypnotizing grooves behind the masterful guitar playing of Moctar. Most of these tracks are five minutes long with the one exception being "Tarhatazed" extended to over seven minutes. Some of these tracks are slow and melodic like "Tumastin" and "Anna", and others are filled with pummeling drums and white-hot guitar solos like "Tarhatazed" and "Kamane Tarhanin". My only qualm with this record is that the two shortest tracks on the record, "Inizgam" and "Takamba" are cut off way too soon. The former features a slow-burn bassline with the acidic tone of Moctars guitar taking on a psychedelic vibe, only to fade out just before the track gets going. The latter song slowly builds with a repetitive guitar solo that gets increasingly more complex as the song goes on, and you will never want it to end. In a year that features way too many good artists making safe synth-pop, this is a welcome respite for the guitar freaks out there.

Inizgam, Takamba, Tarhatazed and Kamane Tarhanin

It gets really lonely being a blogger, and only being able to express yourself through words typed on a computer. I would love to hear from any of you about music that you are listening to these days, as well as just how you are doing.


Don said…
Hi Kevin, I'm saddened to hear about the difficult times you're going through but glad you can still keep the blog ticking along. Mdou Moctar sounds just up my street and I will check him out immediately. You are seldom wrong in your recommendations. Not sure I agree with the assessment of today's music. My millenial children have very eclectic tastes and I hope I take some responsibility for that. And there is some fantastic stuff out there if you look. From this year's crop there in Japanese Television, who recorded their latest ep on 8 track analogue tape in a church hall in Cambridge. They are brilliant and definitely one for you. Then there is The Gazelle Twin - unearthly vocals over intricate electronica. Really interesting, dark and disturbing. The Comet is Coming, head banging British jazzness in the tradition of Acoustic Ladyland but on bucket loads of steroids. Spirituals which is a one-man electronic project, weaving unearthly magic out of samples of found sound. Utterly brilliant. Laughing Eye. Swedish. Great beats, cranky pianos, off kilter chorales. Fabulous. Oh and a few more - Cosey Fanni Tutti@s first relaese in decades is a triumph. She hasn't let age mellow her in the slightest. Still scares the shit out of me. Kikagaku Moyu's Masana Temples is just gorgeous. 75 Dollar Bill, who I've just discovered and intrigue me a lot. Farai is another punk jazzster from London. She's ferocious. I've done you a mixtape. I'll send you the link if you still have the same email address. Look after yourself now. Don
Kevin said…
Is this my old friend Don from Sheffield? If so, long time no talk. I definitely think you will be into Mdou Moctar's latest record. Most of his recordings don't stand up to the live show, but this record absolutely slays. I think I've just noticed a trend lately where bands who used to be gritty and raw are releasing records with a more polished synth-pop sound. Examples of these are Tim Presley, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Stephen Malkmus, Sleater Kinney, Cate Le Bon and Deerhunter. I've never been a big fan of synthesizers, except for maybe a few years in the 80's.

Anyway, I digress. Most of the artists you've named are new to me except for Kikagaku Moyo and 75 Dollar Bill. I really liked Kikagaku's two records before Masana Temples, but I was on the fence with Masana Temples. I wanted it to sprawl out more with some jams like their early records, and it just felt a little too mellow for my taste. As far as 75 Dollar Bill, I haven't given the latest record a proper listen yet, but I plan to do so. My e-mail address is the same, so please send me your mix. I'm especially intrigued by your descriptions of Japanese Television and The Comet is coming.
Don said…
Indendiary doesn't even come close! My ears are still fizzing.

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