This hypnotic masterpiece from the French label No Format is another fine example of the label's penchant for putting musicians from different musical backgrounds together in a studio and seeing what they come up with. Malian kora (harp-lute) player Ballake Sissoko and French cello player Vincent Segal got together in Salif Keita's studio Moffou in Bamako and made ten beautiful tracks for this release, which explores both the common ground shared by the two stringed instruments - as well their differences.
Most of the songs are pinned around traditional kora melodies and rhythms but Segal does well to make them his own. His cello has a husky tone that complements the clear notes of the kora, staking its claim to its own space even when the kora is setting the tune. On `Mako Mady' Segal leads the track boldly and darkly, while Sissoko follows with his characteristic lightness. On `Ma-Ma FC' the kora sets the racing melody while Segal peppers the chords with his unpredictable plucking and bowing. The deeply resonant title-track reminds us that the kora, as well as being an instrument to fill out dance bands like Salif Keita's lively ensemble or Toumani Diabate's Symmetric Orchestra, also stands on its own as an instrument that weaves a tale in its own right. Throughout the album, Sissoko creates a beautiful, calming space in which to enjoy the cello, and Segal adds texture. This is the kind of music that doesn't happen all that often. Don't miss out.
© Rose Skelton -- Songlines magazine #70 - Top of the World album review