Izzy Cortens saw Tinariwen this past fall. Read her review of the show below.
Tinariwen’s 2019 “Amadjar” was the first album I popped into the player this semester, a fresh new release for the shack’s play shelf. I was immediately struck by the rich atmosphere that surfaced with each track, and was equally stoked to realize that the Berber band would be playing at Portland’s Crystal Ballroom the following month.
The album opens with drone-y tones. From then on chant-like vocals weave in and out, a hypnotic theme to the whole record, really. The folky, rhythmic guitar (check out “Zawal”) brought the ethereal sounds back down to earth, just to be lifted up again with melodic builds and psych- electric guitar (think backward guitar riffs off the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows”). About midway through the album, you begin to notice how each song floats in, absorbs you, and eventually floats out. The whole thing feels like an intimate jam session around a beach fire: eerily abrupt beginnings, predictable repetition throughout, and all-together earthy.
I showed up to the show not knowing really what to expect. The crowd was an eclectic bunch, a whole range of ages and a good deal of zany dancing. The band had an amusing air of arrogance, but righteously so! The builds and pulls off the album were even more tangible live — especially with 10 or so band members getting groovy on stage. Another good night at the Crystal ~~~