Mdou Moctar Bring Wide Net Of Saharan Guitar Thrills Via ‘Afrique Victime’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

On the 2019 breakthrough, Ilana: The Creator, Mdou Moctar combined a dizzying mix of 70’s psych-rock with Tuareg guitar playing to forge a winning sound. Now on the follow-up Afrique Victime, a wider net is cast which captures a broader sonic palette. 

The group (Mdou Moctar – lead guitar, vocals, Ahmoudou Madassane – rhythm guitar, Souleymane Ibrahim – drums, Mikey Coltun – bassist, producer) pick up on opener “Chismiten” right where they left off as the literal crackling desert sands give way to the circular Saharan guitar sounds, as the band locks in and take off. “Taliat ” slows things down focusing on the groove before amazing soloing from Moctar ends the track while bass moves front and center on “Asdikte Akal” which unfortunately cuts out when it seems ready to hit that next level.

On Afrique Victime Moctar wanted to focus more on acoustic instrumentation and programmed electronic beats which are a staple of the Agadez sound. Efforts like “Ya Habibti”, “Layla” and “Tala Tannam” display the group’s talents for writing and delivering acoustic playing with added handclaps, digital flourishes, and backing vocals. Lyrically, singing in the Tuareg language Moctor addresses modern-day problems, the generational impacts of Colonialism and Africa as a whole.     

All of this is just a prelude however for the standout title track. A bombastic audacious blistering whirlwind. which combines all of the strengths of the outfit as they gallop, push and pull towards an unknown future. Their finest musical offering to date, the exhilarating song increases and decreases tempo, letting Moctar perform guitar hysterics while keeping the rhythm engaging all around him as the extended tune brings in all elements which make this band special. 

As an exhale the album offers one final highlight with “Bismilahi Atagah” delivering soothing vocals along with a percussive heavy conclusion as the sand once again crunches underneath sandaled feet and the desert air blows by completing the albums circular patterns. Mdou Moctar’s Africa Victime is a less out and out rocking affair than past offerings, yet it is a more nuanced and dynamic full length than anything they have delivered before.     


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