This album features a combination of very traditional-sounding songs, with arrangements sometimes as sparse as just a drum, handclapping and vocals, and also some more developed numbers familiar to fans of Tinariwen or Toumast. Both formats work extremely well.
In terms of the more traditional songs, there is a combination of male and female vocals in some, more often one or the other takes the lead. What's good is that the production keeps everything level, so neither the vocals or instrumentation overwhelms - occasionally with 'world music' the vocals can sometimes be pushed too strongly, whereas here they are just one other instrument. The songs set up a hypnotic effect and, to use a cliche, really do have you closing your eyes and imagining the scene around the campfire, and apparently the more traditional sounding tracks actually were. One track in particular, 'Tihou Beyatine' really brings this across, with ad-lib vocal contributions and even what sounds like general chatter in the background.
Other tracks feature electric bass and desert-blues style eletric guitar which, though not quite as gritty as Tinariwen, is incredibly uplifting and beguiling, weaving melodies over the other traditional elements. One highlight is the second track 'Ansari', which within half-a-dozen bars had charmed its way into my World Music Top Ten Tracks of All Time - no mean feat.
There are many fantastic tracks on here, though, and its balance of purely traditional songs and those with one or two electric instruments prevent it from becoming an effort to listen to.
This just arrived, it's Saturday morning and I'm still half asleep but, turned up loud, Abacabok is sending shivers down my spine. If you're looking for Malian or Northwest African music, forget Tinariwen and Toumast - they're great live but this is the real thing: field recordings from the desert performed by a band of five women and four men on traditional instruments (although there is electric bass on two tracks, it doesn't sound too out of place). If you love the Desert Rebel sessions, Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba, and Ali Farka then this is for you.