Noura Mint Seymali: On The Trans-Saharan Express

25th October 2016

Title: Arbina

Label: Glitterbeat

I can’t seem to get the notion of Souxise Sioux-esque ‘new wave’ out of my head with the first track of this album, the title track in fact. There’s a ‘reaching’, a ‘stretching’ of the vocal chords from Seymali that ties her into post punk attitude alongside the fractured percussion busy backing from her fellow Mauritania-derived musicians.

Her slightly treated vocals also seem divorced from the backing music, in fact, which is slightly odd but also intriguing. At times, it’s almost as if the two are playing in a different room and are doing their own thing and only happen to mesh in musical terms by accident. The track Mohammedoun is ripe for that alongside Cocteau Twins-like vocal manipulations. The Elizabeth Fraser connection on this particular track is just uncanny. The dreamy and slightly otherworldly delivery that Somali offers on this one track is worth the admission fee right there.

What I like about this album, though, apart from the highlights that I’ve already noted, is the variety. Na Sane, for example, is beat heavy with a strong bass. The Cocteau Twins vocal remains but the instrumentation is almost reggae like in its approach giving a complex world/reggae/4AD combo that is quite beguiling. The innovation and changes in tempo, the imaginative, fleet of foot, almost jazz-like approach to the music feeds the mind. You never really know what to expect next.

In sonic terms, the mastering is decent. Not amazing, not earth shattering in audiophile terms but there’s nothing aggressive here to make you wince. Average in terms of pressing is good enough, though because the content, the music itself, is anything but. Apparently, many of the songs on this album call out to the divine, asking for grace and protection. There’s plenty of the former on this album.