Gagakirise and Eye electrify, Mdou Moctar offers Saharan guitar rock
Gagakirise and Eye
This writer firmly believes that people are still trying to catch up with the Japanese band Boredoms, and out of a never-boring, three-decade-long career, the pinnacle is the absolutely mind-blowing late ’90s run, with the releases Super ae, Super Roots 7 and Vision Creation Newsun that flattened everything in their path with a sonic rocket-engine-powered steamroller of Krautrock-on-cocaine locomotion and cosmic, brain-melting electronics.
Although this writer largely tries to avoid wild hyperbole, he can’t help but gush; simultaneously primal and articulated, Boredoms created a transcendental elevation of rock music rarely heard, and listeners will still be trying to fully process this stuff years from now.
It’s clear that the Japanese duo Gagakirise is a fan of this music, and the twosome’s latest release is even a collaboration with Eye (a.k.a. Yamantaka Eye), the vocalist and front man of Boredoms who has been scarce in the last few years.
Gagakiriseye is a two-track single, and it offers a huge amount of raw energy and replay value, particularly with “The Flash” which is like an adrenaline injection with machine-gun electric guitar notes and an ever-changing structure, suggesting a concise version of prog-rock.
Eye begins singing with an odd faux operatic voice that cliff-dives and levitates into glissandos before unleashing his trademark, unmistakable controlled screaming. The ramping rhythmic intensity chugs with a Bonham/Dinger drum-buddy-lovechild then evolves into a hi-hat heavy chase scene until it can go no further, concluding abruptly amid a chaotic maelstrom of heavy pummeling.
“Robobird2” takes a different approach, with a serene beginning, unfurling glistening harmonics and electronic tones like a video-game version of a pastoral sunrise. Eye provides a vocal storm warning before the figurative dam bursts, spilling its unstoppable wave with alarm sirens, snare-drum rolls and drumbeat explosions.
In the aftermath, there’s the pitter-patter of guitar taps, suggesting the scurrying of animals scavenging after a disaster.
Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai
The film Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai—translated as “Rain the Color of Blue with a Little Red in It”—perhaps wins the award for “Clumsiest Syntax” because apparently, in the West African Tamasheq language, there is no word for “purple.”
Take one look at the soundtrack album cover, featuring the musician and star of the film Mdou Moctar, and it becomes even more clear that this is an homage to Prince’s Purple Rain. This new film—the first Tuareg feature film ever made, directed by Sahelsounds head honcho Christopher Kirkley—was structured as an adaptation of the original film, using improvised scenes with untrained actors on a limited budget.
While the film is an adaptation, the soundtrack album is not. It sounds nothing like Prince. It should be, however, immediately appealing to fans of Saharan guitar rock, such as that from other musicians from Agadez in the nation of Niger, including Bombino and Group Inerane.
This is addicting, compelling stuff, with the most prominent feature being fluid electric guitar lines from Moctar that are hard-edged and piercing; there’s the bite and snarl of distortion but with clarity, so that it’s not possible to gloss over notes like an amateur might, with occasional tremolo or phaser guitar effects for a hint of psychedelic rock.
The driving momentum of the drum patterns places an emphasis on certain beats in a way that isn’t expected in, say, a typical American rock song, and the passionate singing adds to the enveloping soundstream, often using limber 6/8 time signatures to propel the proceedings.
Moctar mixes up the song textures, sometimes using hand drums and acoustic guitars, like on numbers like “Tahoultine,” which takes a less aggressive approach but is no less enthralling.
While the film’s Purple Rain-obsessed theme is gaining attention, it shouldn’t overshadow the music; similarly, this writer believes that few would argue against the Purple Rain soundtrack having much more enduring significance than the film.