Thanks to decades of some of the best music that Africa has to offer, Bamako Airport – the BKO of Dirtmusic’s début album – has become a thoroughfare for international travellers wanting to pay homage to the homeland of Ali Farka Touré, Toumani Diabaté, Oumou Sangaré and many more. For Dirtmusic (inspired by the Tim Winton novel), the attraction was the Malian capital’s Studio Bogolan – set up by Touré himself. It was to this hallowed space that Dirtmusic’s Chris Eckman, Chris Brokaw and Hugo Race took themselves in search of ambience, Tuareg band Tamikrest and the indefinable something that goes into the mix of BKO.
Given that the individual backgrounds of the Dirtmusic trio contain some of the most luminous of the first world’s independent music scene – Sonic Youth, Nick Cave and the Walkabouts included – BKO was always going to be an interesting meeting of minds. But what makes it really compelling is the meeting of its lean rocked-out blues with the sinuous structures provided by Malian guests who include members of Diabaté’s Symmetric Orchestra and Tartit’s singer Fadimata Walet Oumar. It’s a generous collision: opener ‘Black Gravity’ is a gruff thumper with a fillet of music donated by Tamikrest spliced in; Lobi Traoré’s guitars jam on ‘Bring It Home’ and Oumar’s vocals on ‘Desert Wind’ are memorable. There’s one jarring moment – a cover of the Velvet Underground’s ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ is just too jolly for words – but don’t let that put you off. And there’s a nice DVD documentary on a second disc, too.