Dirtmusic: Troubles – album reviewDirtmusic – Troubles (Glitterbeat Records)


10 June 2013


The new album from members of The Walkabouts and Bad Seeds plus several Malian musicians is an “album of quite stunning quality”. Check out our review to find out why we think so.

In 2001, 1 Giant Leap released an eponymously titled album inspired by their travels around the world. They involved well-known artists such as Neneh Cherry, Eddi Reader and Michael Stipe and mixed them with local sounds mainly from Africa. The album that the ex-Faithless members produced was a critical milestone and even produced a hit single in the Maxi Jazz / Robbie Williams accompanied My Culture. This year, Dirtmusic (alias Chris Eckman and Hugo Race) have taken that theory and gone on to make an (arguably) even more magical album of quite stunning quality.

The story goes that after the departure of Chris Brokaw, the remaining members of Dirtmusic travelled to Bamako in Mali with lyrics but nothing else – no songs, no tunes, no ideas. Joined by the likes of Ben Zabo and Samba Toure they produced sessions which turned into this album.

Chicken Scratch blasts off straight into an urban African groove. It’s hot, humid tones are infectious, the voice and sound not dissimilar to Massive Attack but the deep-rooted dirtiness of this is marvellous with its screeching guitar sounds and funky guitar playing. Zabo guests on vocal & it’s amazing played loud.

The tracks on Troubles are a mix of West African rhythms and rock ’n’ roll which creates an incisive and unique journey in sound. Singing in Songhai, Tamasheq and Bambara, as well as English, it’s true success is in the meeting of Africa and “the West” in equal importance.


La Paix features the incredible vocals of rising star Aminata Wassidje Traore which together with some amazing guitar work by Eckman and Race creates a stunning track. Title track, Troubles, is a wonderful Blues infected piece – “I got up this morning, first person I met was the Devil”. Indeed.

Traditional Malian sounds in the form of a soku are incorporated into God Is A Mystery. With added monotone electronics it becomes atmospheric and haunting. Track 2, Fitzcarraldo has more galloping sounds, traditional percussion and floating guitars. Belgian violinist Catherine Graindorge is brought in to add a further twist.

This album is rock, it’s roll, it’s funk, it’s African, it’s an aural delight, and, if the album itself wasn’t enough, the packaging is a joy. A triple fold out sleeve with an integral twenty-eight page booklet. It’s an awesome package. There’s even enough tracks from the sessions for another album early next year!

Not only is this one of the best albums of 2013, it may well also be one of the best albums you’ll ever hear.

Find out more about Dirtmusic here. Follow them on Twitter here or like them on Facebook here.

All words by Paul Scott-Bates. More of Paul’s writing on Louder Than War can be found here. Paul’s website is hiapop Blog. Paul has been working hard to save Radio Lancashire’s On The Wire, the BBCs longest running alternative music programme. Follow him on twitter as @saveonthewire for all On The Wire news or follow hiapop Blog on Twitter, @hiapop.

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Born and bred in Lancashire, currently residing in the Rossendale Valley. Everything deserves one listen, but, not necessarily a second. Only (ex-Community) DJ to ever play Nat ‘King’Cole followed by Nine Inch Nails, and, eat Fish and Chips live on air. http://www.hiapop.com


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