rivermudtwilight (World Village 468088, 2009)
Justin Adams, Lu Edmonds and Ben Mandelson could have all been content in their careers as successful UK rock guitarists, but like any musicians worth their salt, they came to realize that there’s a world of music out there. There’s also plenty of stringed instruments which a guitar player in search of something different could love, and it just so happens these three blokes went out searching and came back musically richer for it.
Adams (guitarist in Robert Plant’s band and African moonlighter extraordinaire through his work with Tinariwen and Juldeh Camara) describes Les Triaboliques as a “meeting of the ancient guild of post-punk, Anglo, globetrotting string players reveling in idiosyncrasy,” and by gum, that’s loads better than any description I could muster.
The greatest thing about this great album is its unpredictability. A particular track might start out suggestive of blues, folk, Latin, Middle Eastern or what have you, only to progress into something unanticipated (like a traditional Jewish hora making way for a quietly agonized rendition of “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”) or defy such expectations through understated singing and playing that grabs the attention nonetheless.
Our stringy threesome has not only guitars but also wider-world instruments like mandolin, saz, cumbus, kabosy and laouto at their fingertips, and they combine them in wild and wonderful ways. Never playing indulgently and always craftily blending sounds, textures and riffs of various locales, Les Triaboliques create atmosphere galore plus a truly ensemble sense of syncopated symbiosis that’s catchy and evocative.
Despite a few slow and meandering moments, rivermudtwilight (somehow a perfectly apt title) showcases a group of master musicians at their unassuming best.
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