Music

Alhousseini Anivolla: Anewal / The Walking Man

The latest in a surge of guitar music from the western Sahara region.


Alhousseini Anivolla

Anewal / The Walking Man

Label: Riverboat
US release date: 2012-08-14
UK release date: 2012-08-13
Amazon
iTunes

Alhousseini Anivolla is the latest of a seemingly endless wave of "desert blues" guitarists erupting out of Mali and other states of the western Sahara, inspired perhaps by the intercontinental success of trailblazers like Tinariwen and Terakaft. Anivolla has plenty of experience and street (sand?) cred: As the guitarist and lead vocalist of Etran Finatawa, he is a prominent figure in the movement's "second generation", but this album marks his first attempt at a solo career.

While some of the newer faces in this movement, such as Bombino, utilize a more distinctly electric approach to writing and recording their songs, Anivolla's approach is more acoustic in nature and utilizes a gentler, sweeter approach. Don't be misled, however; "gentler" does not mean "weaker", and Anivolla's songs ripple with the same muscular energy as those of his old bandmates. His tunes may lope where the others surge, but their rolling energy is in its way irresistibly compelling.

Things get good right away on Anivolla's debut, Anewal/The Walking Man. Opening track "Imoussanan" combines hypnotic, semi-chanted vocals with a sweet melody reflected in both the voices and the guitar picking; it all takes about six seconds to establish itself before stretching out for almost six minutes. Anivolla's voice is sweet and gravelly at the same time, possessing that same misleading casualness present in so many singers of this style. The guitar work is fluid but never flashy, serving the underpin the song without calling attention to itself.

Follow-up tune "Kammo Tarhanin" is perhaps the best song on the record, possessing a terrific polyrhythm base and tinkling guitar line that perfectly offsets the wistful vocals of the singer. Before the listener has a chance to catch his/her breath, though, it's off the races for a whole string of well-rendered tunes: The reflective "Imadanan Id'Madiakan", with its growling echo chorus; the urgent "Talaouit", propelled by spare but effective hand percussion; and "Talitin", whose simple melody burrows into the listener's head and can nest there for days. Trust me on this one.

At 11 tracks, there is the opportunity here for energy to slacken in the back half of the album, but this doesn't happen. Certainly, the template has been set by midway point, and there are no unexpected shifts, but the tunes remain solid and well-played throughout.

The effective instrumental "Attarech" clocks in at nearly six minutes with a stuttering, jittery guitar line that proves as hypnotic as anything that has come before, while "Amoud" and "Tamiditin" are both gently swaying numbers that bring harmony vocals into the mix for a fuller sound and a softer overall effect.

"Iblis Ouadad" would be a standout on any number of lesser albums, but on an offering this consistent it is just one more strong song among many. That said, it should still be noted for the solid tune that it is. Bonus track "Aiytma" offers ethereal vocals courtesy of female guest singer Malebo, plus a discreet, dreamy synth line to add a dash of something unexpected. The results work well overall, though perhaps better as a bonus track than as something suggesting a new direction for the future.

Aficianados of the burgeoning desert blues scene owe it to themselves to listen to this fine record, as do fans of guitar playing, followers of trends in world music or music lovers in general. This is a terrific album that deserves a wide audience.

8
Music


Books


Film


Recent
Music

The 60 Best Albums of 2007

From tech house to Radiohead and Americana to indie and everything in between, the 60 best albums of 2007 included many of the 2000s' best albums.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Solitude Stands in the Window: Thoreau's 'Walden'

Henry David Thoreau's Walden as a 19th century model for 21st century COVID-19 quarantine.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

Will COVID-19 Kill Movie Theaters?

Streaming services and large TV screens have really hurt movie theaters and now the coronavirus pandemic has shuttered multiplexes and arthouses. The author of The Perils of Moviegoing in America, however, is optimistic.

Gary D. Rhodes, Ph.D
Television

Fleabag's Hot Priest and Love as Longing

In season two of Fleabag, The Priest's inaccessibility turns him into a sort of god, powerful enough for Fleabag to suddenly find herself spending hours in church with no religious motivation.

Music

Annabelle's Curse's 'Vast Oceans' Meditates on a Groundswell of Human Emotions (premiere)

Inspired by love and life, and of persistent present-day issues, indie folk band Annabelle's Curse expand their sound while keeping the emotive core of their work with Vast Oceans.

Music

Americana's Sarah Peacock Finds Beauty Beneath Surface With "Mojave" (premiere + interview)

Born from personal pain, "Mojave" is evidence of Sarah Peacock's perseverance and resilience. "When we go through some of the dry seasons in our life, when we do the most growing, is often when we're in pain. It's a reminder of how alive you really are", she says.

Television

Power Struggle in Beauty Pageants: On 'Mrs. America' and 'Miss Americana'

Television min-series Mrs. America and Taylor Swift documentary Miss Americana make vivid how beauty pageants are more multi-dimensional than many assume, offering a platform to some (attractive) women to pursue higher education, politics, and more.

Hilary Levey Friedman
Music

Pere Ubu 'Comes Alive' on Their New, Live Album

David Thomas guides another version of Pere Ubu through a selection of material from their early years, dusting off the "hits" and throwing new light on some forgotten gems.

Music

Woods Explore Darkness on 'Strange to Explain'

Folk rock's Woods create a superb new album, Strange to Explain, that mines the subconscious in search of answers to life's unsettling realities.

Music

The 1975's 'Notes on a Conditional Form' Is Laudably Thought-Provoking and Thrilling

The 1975 follow A Brief Inquiry... with an even more intriguing, sprawling, and chameleonic song suite. Notes on a Conditional Form shows a level of unquenchable ambition, creativity, and outspoken curiosity that's rarely felt in popular music today.

Music

Dustbowl Revival's "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)" Is a Cheeky Reproach of COVID-19 (premiere)

Inspired by John Prine, Dustbowl Revival's latest single, "Queen Quarantine (A Home Recording)", approaches the COVID-19 pandemic with wit and good humor.

Books

The 2020 US Presidential Election Is Going to Be Wild but We've Seen Wild Before

Americans are approaching a historical US presidential election in unprecedented times. Or are they? Chris Barsanti's The Ballot Box: 10 Presidential Elections That Changed American History gives us a brief historical perspective.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.