German producer Tim Bernhardt and partner Den Ishu have been pushing a lush brand of electronica for a few years, preferring vocal-led emotion and melody to up-tempo dancefloor fare. It’s a formula that has seen their sundrenched original productions and exotic remixes find favour worldwide. It’s hardly surprising, then, that they’ve enlisted a clutch of names from the US, Britain, Belgium and Australia to contribute to debut album Panorama Pacifico. This is a beautifully mellow and largely laid-back journey traversing nu-disco, electro-pop and house, as Bernhardt’s smooth, layered production enables the eclectic guest roster — which includes Marble Sounds and IsaacO — to work its magic. Say You is, according to Melbourne’s Jane Elizabeth Hanley, aka Kids at Midnight, “about being afraid of being happy”, and her sensual vocal paired with Bernhardt’s squelchy synths and production flourishes make for a contemplative groove. Fellow Aussie KLP contributes a similarly sultry vocal on the moody For Days.
Recent single We Can Talk is a standout, an upbeat and melodic key-led affair that lets Emma Brammer’s vocal come to the fore, while last year’s much checked Shine On You raises the tempo with its four-to-the-floor kick underpinning Londoner Esser’s vocal hook. Bernhardt has said songs are ultimately about making people “feel something”. Summery and emotive, Panorama Pacifico delivers those feels. Azel Bombino Partisan Having aligned with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach in Nashville for his beefed-up 2013 blockbuster Nomad, maverick Tuareg guitarslinger/singer Omara “Bombino” Moctar has opted for a different US producer, Dave Longstreth (of the Dirty Projectors band) in upstate New York, and a less raucous approach for his third studio album.
Several tracks on Azel take up where the previous record left off, with Bombino hitting the ultra-repetitive grungy and modal electric guitar groove and tone that has become his trademark — a cross-cultural sound seemingly positioned midway between North America and the North African Sahara desert of his native Niger. There are salient points of difference between the two releases.
The new album introduces a fresh rhythmic inflection that Bombino has termed Tuareggae, denoting that it’s a blend of reggae bounce and backbeat and circular desert blues, but one in which his raspy, sand-sprayed traditional Tamashek vocals are layered over strident topend guitar riffs. This fusion occurs in the mesmerising Timtar, but also in the slower burning Iwaranagh. Even more intriguing is Bombino’s move towards an intricate acoustic fingerpicking guitar technique and what appears to be a Celtic cum Mark Knopfler influence in Igmayagh Dum and Ashuhada. His playing in Iyat Ninhay is closer to incendiary Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page licks.
Bombino is evolving stylistically with increasing exposure to international festivals and bands. It’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here.