Tinariwen’s fourth studio album, Imidiwan: Companions, is no big departure from their earlier material, infact the tracks on it could easily segue into the playlist on their earlier albums (or at least the two that I have – Amassakoul, their second album and Aman Iman: Water Is Life, their third).
Chunking, hypnotic guitar riffs, bluesy lead breaks, guttural lyrics, tribal chants and the occasional female wail comprise Tinariwen’s trademark sound.
The mythology that surrounds the band is probably partially responsible for their success outside of north Africa - Touareg rebels whose sound was forged in refugee and guerilla training camps as they fought for an independent homeland in the deserts of Mali.
The Touareg are desert nomads who habitually dress in all encompassing robes, ride over sand dunes on camels and who have become almost synonymous, as far as the outside world is concerned with Tinariwen.
The band are led by Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, a rangy, long-haired poet, who looks a bit like Phil Lynott after a month on the rip. Other singers, also described on their album sleeve notes as poets, occasionally take up the vocals.
Visually they are an impressive band, as a DVD documentary packaged in with Imidiwan testifies.
The fact that the tracks on this album are not, in terms of style that different, from previous recordings is not a criticism. Each song is unique but utilizes familiar Tinariwen elements.
I’ve only been listening to Imidiwan for a week but don’t feel it is as strong an album as Aman Iman, which seemed slightly edgier. Despite that the new album is still travelling between my car and house and is almost on constant loop, aurally dragging me from the damp and humid greenness of Co Down to sun-blasted rocky deserts and cool tents where mint tea is drunk.