Ballaké Sissoko ‘At Peace’ (Naïve) 4/5

One of the finest world fusion albums in recent years arrived without fanfare during the summer of 2010. It was entitled ‘Chamber Music’ and was a collaboration between French cellist Vincent Segal and kora player Ballaké Sissoko. This new album which is not conceived as a direct follow up, is led by the latter, but produced by the former and features the cellist on selected pieces along with musicians performing on the balafon and twelve-stringed guitar. Again it is a meditative, reposing musical experience that is based on simple repetitive motifs on kora that have textured additional layers that create timeless grooves. This is typified by compositions such as ‘Boutalaka’ which is an album highlight. Of the all but one original numbers, the longest by far is the virtual ten and a half minute ‘N’Tomkiorobougo’ which is a compelling driving piece and like much of the album has the quality of making the listener feel as though they are on a continuous musical journey. A larger ensemble piece, ‘Badjourou’ features Segal as accompanyist, though he does have space to solo. Most intruiging of all is the cover of a north-east Brazilian classic from the pen of Gonzaguinha. ‘Asa Branca’, which is an uptempo vehicle. When music is this pure, there is no real need for adornment.

Tim Stenhouse