Veteran Tuareg band Tinariwen create a lattice of bluesy guitar licks on the new Elwan | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

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Veteran Tuareg band Tinariwen create a lattice of bluesy guitar licks on the new Elwan

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Over their previous few albums, veteran Tuareg band Tinariwen have included contributions from a revolving cast of rock musicians, and their strong new Elwan (Anti) follows suit. Guitarists Kurt Vile and Matt Sweeney (Chavez), who jam on a handful of tracks, deserve praise mainly for not getting in the way, which is more than I can say for the lugubrious moan that singer Mark Lanegan drops on “Nànnuflày.” Apart from the marketing opportunities the guests provide, I’m not sure why Tinariwen bother—they sure don’t need any extra talent. Then again, they could use a jolt of energy to shake up a formula that has remained comfortingly familiar for nearly two decades now. The band’s lattice of terse, bluesy guitar licks cycling in and out of clopping rhythms still sounds remarkable, but there just aren’t many surprises lurking within their hypnotic grooves. What has changed is the perspective of the group’s lyrics, which has taken a turn from the defiant ethnic pride that distinguished their early material. On “Ténéré Tàqqàl” Ibrahim Ag Alhabib laments the dissolution of Tuareg unity, singing in Tamashek, “The strongest impose their will / And leave the weakest behind,” while “Assàwt” expresses sympathy for Tuareg women, pleading for an end to their subservience.   v

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