Tal National: Tantabara

John Adamian on May 9, 2018

A drummer can be the key to a great record, and Tal National’s drummer could probably craft a great record playing only a hihat or a snare drum. He plays with such force, invention and confidence, making the songs march, gallop or whip, depending on his inclination. He’s abetted at times by percussionists playing talking drums, which only intensifies the situation. Add to that the fact that this band from Niger in North Central Africa have a guitarist who plays snarling, flamethrower riffs and is capable of moving into woven pointillist King Crimson-style artrock webs of notes. This music is astounding on a number of levels, though. The dense poly-pulsation— with rapid triplet subdivisions to the general thrust of many of the songs, with overlaid four-beat patterns— allows for the music to be felt in multiple fashions, setting up the kind of kinetic body push that compels dance as a means of parsing out the differing drives within the music. The limbs can sometimes make better sense of it than the mind. And the album is produced in a slightly postmodern fashion, with fade-outs that leave portions of the rhythmic substructures exposed, allowing a glimpse of how the parts lock together and spring off one another. Unlike some of the artists from Niger and the Saharan region who’ve come to the attention of American music fans by playing what’s been dubbed Desert Blues—a style associated with the Tuareg ethnic group—Tal National play music that pulls from the ethnic diversity of their home country. They’re bold, cuttingedge and traditional. The general atmosphere is ecstatic, bordering on frenetic.

Artist: Tal National
Album: Tantabara