Mdou Moctar and Eric Slick explore the collective language of the world at Johnny Brenda's - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart
Mdou Moctar | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren |

A hometown EP release, a touring Tuareg rock band, and the after glow from #doubledoink made for a perfect night of music at Johnny Brenda’s this Sunday. 

Skylar Skjelset opened the show with a solo set consisting of moody bedroom-trance music. A wave of ambient beach sounds gave way to slowly evolving grooves manipulated by a table of synths and other magical electronics. His minimalist melodies were allowed to transform at their own pace while still keeping the audiences heads bobbing.

Skylar Skjelset | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren |

Hometown hero Eric Slick brings something completely new with his latest 10’’ release, Bullfighter. The Dr. Dog drummer turned solo frontman was joined on stage by a string quartet made up of violinists Katie Jacoby and Camellia Hartman, cellist Kristine Kruta, and violist Midori Witkoski. Slick’s string arrangements added a new lightness to the songs “The Dirge” and “No,” from his 2017 record Palisades, before getting beefed up by the addition of Simon Martinez and Michael Johnson (of Ape School, also the project’s producer), and launching into the entirety of his new EP. Eric Slick has that new sound you’re looking for and I look forward to more string collaboration. Slick and the string quartet closed out the set with a bouncy cover of Richard Swift’s posthumous release, “Dirty Jim.”

Eric Slick | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren |

Sahel Sound Records has been hitting gold in the Sahara. Following in the footsteps of bands like Tinariwen and Bombino , Mdou Moctar is exporting the electric Tuareg sound to mass appeal. Their polyrhythmic music and wailing guitars were akin to a desert blues band with emphasis on showcasing each member’s virtuosity. Mdou’s left handed guitar, mastery of the traditional style, and fluttering hook of an index finger gave me flashes of Jimi Hendrix mixed with James Jamerson and Ali Farka Toure. His most recent album, 2017’s Sousoume Tamachek had a more traditional, mellow acoustic feel, which leads me to hope that we’ll hear some of the songs from their set on a new album!

The live set sounded like a heavier, jammier version of the soundtrack for his Nigerien Purple Rain remake, Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai which translates to “Rain the Color of Blue with a Little Red in It.” Trying to recognize song titles was an interesting task. They didn’t announce song titles, but I think I heard “Chet Boshassa” and “Jagwa,” and possibly “Adounia” and “Maheyega Assouf Igan.” Short of words, in English at least, Mdou Moctar had a lot to say through his music, the collective language of the world.

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