Pharaoh Saunders albums are always difficult propositions. I bought Mantra some years ago and even though I play it occasionally, the long wailing, screaming atonal passages are too much to make it more than an intermittant pleasure. It's not that I dislike it - I always have difficulty understanding why people find the likes of Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman 'tuneless', to me their music makes perfect sense, it's just a case of accepting what they do on their own merits - it's just that it's very difficult to find a point of referenc, a bit like trying to grab hold of a fast moving river.
But I digress, though for a very good reason. Thembi is the Pharaoh Saunders record that you can listen to without an overwhelming sense that what you are doing is inately masochistic. Certainly there are moments of blood-thumping maddness, but it's relative pastoralism, chiming melodicism and relatively short track times make this a pleasure to listen to. That isn't to say this is Saunders-lite, it's just that it's delivered in concise slices and all the better for it.