3. Algeria — ‘Imarhan’ by Imarhan

My plan to spend only a week with each album has already changed with the self-titled album by the Algerian Tuareg quintet Imarhan.

I had never heard of them before, but they seem to be quite established, even for Western standards, having performed in festivals around the world and having two albums released on a German record label.

When I got to the end of the week, I just couldn’t let go of this album. I had listened to it quite a few times, and I felt I knew the tracks fairly well, or well enough to decide how much I had enjoyed. Yet I wanted to focus on it more for another week. It is still a bit mysterious, sounding both familiar and foreign at the same time. After two weeks, I’m gonna move on, but I could easily spend another week on it.

It is such a pleasant album to listen to. It definitely has a musical coherence throughout all the songs, yet enough variance to not feel monotonous. It is difficult for me to pinpoint why the album feels so modern, so contemporary. All the instruments and harmonies are what you would expect if you don’t understand a thing about Algerian music, about the country. They fit the vague idea I have of that part of the world. Yet I couldn’t stop thinking how some of the tracks — especially the central piece, called Imarhan too — would work so well in a club setting, and I could see them being remixed by Daft Punk or Damon Albarn. They seem to be the band that would happily endorse that sort of collaboration.

The album alternates between energetic and upbeat songs and more folk-style tracks. It is a cliche, but the latter ones definitely made me think of the desert, the band improvising some tunes around a fire. It is definitely an album — and a band, as I feel they would be very good in concert— that I would back to listening to often when I have some time.

Next week, Andorra…!