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There are few kinds of music more evocative of the place from which they come than that made by the Malian desert nomads known as the Touareg. One can almost see the endless stretches of sand laid out in all directions when listening to the sparse guitars and minimal but propulsive percussion that is a hallmark of Touareg music. Though most non-Africans are probably only familiar with the work of famed Touareg group Tinariwen, one former member of that group (Moussa Ag Kenya) proves with his new group Toumast that there nonetheless exists endless room for stylistic modification within the parameters of the Touareg sound. More bluesy and expansive than the gritty, celebratory sounds made by Tinariwen, Ishumar feels less like the sounds of a party at the oasis and more like intimate musical ruminations done under the stars. There's a circular, droney quality both to the guitar work and the rhythmic passages that are — like most of Ishumar — quite understated, and it goes a long way toward locking the listener in. Combined with asymmetrical song structures and a downcast, almost mournful vocal approach, the result is an album that stands as a darker and more personal take on the Touareg sound.

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Jason Ferguson

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