Various Artists, '1970s Algerian Proto-Rai Underground' (Sublime Frequencies)

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1970s Algerian Proto-Rai Underground
Critical Mass
Label: Sublime Frequencies

by Abigail Everdell

Algeria's oppressive late-'60s and early-'70s social atmosphere forced rai --the country's edgy new pop music -- underground; its bands performed, but couldn't release records until the decade's close. Tracks from four of that period's major players are collected here, but don't expect the squeaky disco synths of better-known '90s rai -- the loose percussion, horns, and humming accordion more often recall zydeco grooves or the swirling jazz of Éthiopiques alum Mahmoud Ahmed. The style's candid lyricism remains, however, and while the language will be impenetrable to most, the singers' frustrated heartsickness is unmistakable -- particularly on Boutaiba Sghir's aching standout "Malgre Tout."

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