Noticeably more acoustic than on their earlier records, we get to witness the fragile beauty that exists in their music alongside the visceral, bluesy drive. Walla Illa is a wonderfully lilting, soothing lullaby, with Adebimpe providing softly cooing backing vocals, while the complex solo guitar work on Tameyawt demonstrates that these are musicians with the dexterity and flair to match the best anywhere. The contributions of an impressive guest list only serve to further enhance this compelling music, which remains uniquely imbued with the spirit of the environment that shaped it.
Recorded in a desert town in southern Algeria, it's a set that, at its best, matches rhythmic, stuttering acoustic guitar work with soulful vocals from Ibrahim Ag Alhabib on simple, sad-edged songs, such as the stirring Imidiwan Win Sahara or the bluesy Aden Osamnat. However, there are unnecessary added guitar effects from Nels Cline of Wilco, or jazz-edged horn work from New Orleans's Dirty Dozen Brass Band, who sound as if they are trying to hijack the soulful ballad Ya Messinagh. There are also unremarkable vocals in English from the New York band TV on the Radio – but at least they went out to Algeria to join in.
the skirling electric guitars have been replaced by acoustic instruments which, allied to the ageless, weary but unbowed character of Ibrahim Ag Alhabib's voice, enhances further the bluesy nature of their music. The familiar funky camel-gait grooves and call-and-response delivery remain powerfully potent on tracks such as "Imidiwan Ma Tenam", one of several pieces stressing their twin concerns for homeland and companionship – the latter here extended to such as Wilco guitarist Nels Cline, whose droning, resonant tones underscore this track.