Emmaar

Transplant a group of veteran Saharan guitar slingers to a different desert (SoCal's Mojave, specifically the indie depot of Joshua Tree) and add some American guests – rock guitarists Josh Klinghoffer and Matt Sweeney, poet-MC Saul Williams and more. What do you get? Impressively, an undiluted Tinariwen LP that's all circular Afro-Berber riffs, hypnotic hand claps, sun, sky and sand. Unlike the excellent, largely acoustic 2011 set Tassili, the guitars here are mainly electrified, with generous reverb. But the themes persist: war, exile, the desert and the mirage of love. With Tinariwen's members effectively refugees thanks to regional conflicts back home in North Africa, their blues are as deep as ever.

From The Archives Issue 1203: February 27, 2014