Vieux Farka Touré, “Flany Konare” (World Circuit)
One of the more satisfying musical developments of the 21st century has been the burgeoning popularity in the West of African guitarists. Desert-blues artists such as Mdou Moctar, Bombino, Tinariwen, Imharan, Ali Farka Touré, et al. have made the jump to the American festival circuit, and our quasi-mainstream airscape is better for it. The son of the latter named player, Malian musician Vieux Farka Touré continues his father's tradition of hypnotic guitar excursions that are like Ouroboroses of six-string pleasure. You gotta dig repetition with nuanced embellishments if you're going to plunge into this rich soundworld created by nomadic Saharan musicians. It's worth the effort to absorb these songs that are imbued with defiance in the face of political oppression and other hardships faced by the displaced Tuareg people.
The gorgeous “Flany Konare” comes from Touré's new album, Les Racines (which means “the roots”; it comes out on June 10). He instantly ensnares you with a cyclical, intricate guitar pattern that intertwines with a kora's delicately beautiful, harp-like timbres and subtle ticks on a gourd percussion instrument (perhaps a calabash). It's mesmerizing and Touré's warm, poised vocals only add to the comforting trance state the song induces. “Flanary Konare” projects a vulnerable yet profound soulfulness, with the lyrics telegraphing romantic devotion: The English translation of the opening line seems overly formal, but there's no denying its sincerity: “The love, the intense feeling, the affection, the attachment that I have towards you is priceless.”
Many have called Touré “the Hendrix of the Sahara,” but if so, it's the Hendrix of “Little Wing” and “One Rainy Wish,” not of “Fire” or “Love or Confusion.” Generally, though, the comparison's a stretch, because Vieux's touch is so beguilingly feathery and fluid and averse to the wild distortions that marked Jimi's work. Both musicians are virtuosi, obviously, but in quite different idioms. Touré doesn't need to bask in the reflected glory of saint Jimi, but if the tag draws more people to explore the former's music, that's cool.
Vieux Farka Touré performs Tues May 10 & Wed May 11 at Jazz Alley.
Ben Von Wildenhaus, “World Best (Parts 1 & 2)” (Globos)
Now based in Tacoma, former Federation X guitarist/vocalist Ben Von Wildenhaus recently released his fourth album as leader, World Best. (It's available on cassette and download from his own Globos label; funds from sales go to houseless people in Tacoma.) Von Wildenhaus's clout has enabled him to enlist some of the Northwest's most talented underground musicians, including guitarist Bill Horist, Arrington de Dionyso on clarinet, guitarist Ilyas Ahmed, and Diminished Men drummer and guitarist Dave Abramson and Simon Hennemann. The result is Von Wildenhaus's most ambitious, outward-bound full-length to date.
Consisting of three long, exploratory tracks, World Best is a departure from 2020's very good, song-based record, Everything in Flower. The pieces on World Best take an episodic approach, moving from old-world folkloric beauty to new-world avant rock terror to haunting art rock to freeform electronic reveries, and hitting many points in-between with a non-jarring dream logic. I have to admit, I did not see this coming after the sophisticated, melodic rock and lounge-y jazz of Everything in Flower, but I'm impressed by the bold departure that Von Wildenhaus has taken.
“World Best (Parts 1 & 2)” starts with Abramson's oddly metered beats, Jude Webre's tension-ratcheting bass, and Von Wildenhaus's unconventionally tuned, questing guitar riffs, suggesting what Sun City Girls might be doing if they'd continued after Charlie Gocher's death. Billie Bloom's vocals and Jon Sampson's sax add ecstatic counterpoint while Dustin Lanker's revelatory synth solo about five minutes in lifts the track into a zone of astral wonder. (Side note: A whole album of Lanker's synth inventions would be most welcome.) What a long, strange trip this is, and one that I wish were much longer.
Ben Von Wildenhaus performs tonight at Royal Room. Claire Tucker & Bill Patton, Brian Straw, and Aaron Semer open.