Penguin Eggs

Friday, 11 December 2020 14:03

Songhoy Blues

Written by Tony Montague
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Optimisme (Fat Possum Records)

Optimisme comes roaring out of the blocks with its opener, Badala, African metal no less, with pounding percussion and stabbing electric guitar riff over shouted vocals. Hold on to your hat, you’re in for a wild ride with the four young musicians of Songhoy Blues—way out across the plains of contemporary Malian music.

Though the pace never really slackens, it isn’t all a full-on assault, however. The thrilling sound of the band from Bamako includes sweet and lightly dissonant vocal harmonies, handclapping, and intricate guitar work.

And the closing track Kouma is lilting and meditative. Of the other tracks, Fey Fey is a standout, with its angular rhythmic patterns and a brilliant conversation between guitars. But there isn’t a weak link in the gleaming song chain of Optimisme—an album guaranteed to set your COVID-fatigued pulse racing.

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