This month, we check out Mdou Moctar, Trudy And The Romance, Tigress, LAGS, Spotlight and Bicurious.
Niger’s guitar innovator melds Tuareg tradition with classic rock technique
They say necessity is the mother of invention. For Niger-born guitar hero Mdou Moctar, playing was a necessity but, being left-handed and with guitars in short supply, invention was certainly required.
“I made my first guitar out of wood,” Moctar tells TG. “I used bicycle brake wires for the strings, although first it only had five strings because the neck of the guitar wasn’t big enough!”
That sense of persistence and canny invention has never left Moctar. After his early recordings blew up on West Africa’s bluetooth mobile networks in 2008, he toured widely, made 2013 debut Afelan, appeared in a film and, eventually released a solo acoustic record Sousoume Tamachek in 2017, which brought him to the attention of western audiences. During that decade, alongside a left-handed Strat, he has gained a reputation as one of the most forward-thinking players in the Tuareg guitar scene.
“My style of Tuareg music is of the new generation,” explains Moctar. “Its fast and has a lot of energy. It’s music played at weddings…”
More recently, touring the US and Europe has exposed Moctar to classic rock icons, like Hendrix, Billy Gibbons and Van Halen, unlocking new frontiers. New album Illana - recorded in Detroit with a full band - is the crowning glory and sees Moctar tearing up rulebooks from both sides of the Atlantic, melding shred and distortion with the bright, shuffle of Tuareg wedding music. Songs like Kamane Tarhanin shuffle through shimmering pedal tone cycles before launching into Hendrix-like fuzz freakout, while Tarhatazed is a mind-expanding desert shred epic.
“I am just very curious about what would happen [if I was] to mix the Tuareg style with other styles,” concludes Moctar, somewhat modestly. “I love the guitar and the sounds that can come from it. There is so much you can do with the guitar!”
- For fans of: Bombino, Jimi Hendrix
- Gear: Fender Stratocaster, Roland Jazz Chorus 120, Earthquaker Devices pedals
Trudy And The Romance
Liverpool’s doo-wop spacemen
Did you know that the guitar can also be used as a portal to other dimensions? To fantasy lands, alien worlds and cinematic tales of heartbreak? Well, that’s the case for Liverpool’s Trudy And The Romance - a trio that channel the ambition of the Great American Songbook and a rakish execution into rock ’n’ roll space operas.
“Guitar will always be my first love,” says frontman/guitarist Oliver Taylor. “But I spend time songwriting these days, so guitar is my vehicle for piecing together jigsaws and it's also my pencil for writing parts for bigger arrangements.” Those arrangements are bold, ambitious, yet charmingly chaotic - somewhere between a doo-wop Libertines and Richard Hawley covering Ziggy Stardust. “I like to play and move as if I'm serenading a starry-eyed crowd,” says Taylor. “And if I'm doing it right, it's tortured, shambolic and full of heart.”
- For fans of: Arctic Monkeys, Richard Hawley
- Gear: Silvertone Danelectro
Taking a bite out of Brit rock
Chelmsford rockers Tigress have some teeth. Guitarists Sean Bishop and Tom Harrison cite the sizeable sounds of Matt Bellamy and Billy Talent’s Ian D’Sa as key influences and their recent material oozes dramatic dynamics and drop-D jeopardy. “I feel a lot of popular rock bands are being heavily influenced by electronic music,” says Sean. “I want to steer clear of all that stuff. It’s forced me to be more creative with my guitar.”
Their explosive 2018 EP Who Cares has drawn a clear line under Tigress’ poppier previous work, with Paranoid and Bring Me Down, in particular, evoking a four-to-the-floor take on Marmozets’ face-punching power. “I’m a bit of a heavy hitter when I play,” adds Tom. “I’ve learnt over the years that not everything needs to be played with full force, but you’ve got to play the part like you mean it!”
- For fans of: Marmozets
- Gear: HSS Strat, Cort MB-1
- Who: Roman axemen Antonio Canestri and Gianluca Lateana
- Sounds like: A young David Byrne hits the Strepsils after yelling himself raw at an At The Drive-In show.
- Gear: Gianluca - Tele, Fender Twin. Antonio - Tele, Fender Hot Rod Deville
- For fans of: ATD-I, METZ
- Hear: Knives And Wounds
- Who: Brooklyn guitarist/vocalist Mario Quintero
- Sounds like: Stef Carpenter and Chino Moreno join Nothing and take heavy shoegaze to hefty new heights
- Gear: Dunable Guitars Cyclops, 1984 Marshall JCM 800, Earthquaker Devices Afterneath
- For fans of: Nothing, Palms
- Hear: The Age Of Decay
- Who: Dublin guitarist Taran Plouzane
- Sounds like: Gargantuan riffs, fruity loops and in-jokes for song names? It’s math rock, Jim!
- Gear: Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster, Fender HotRod Deluxe III, EBS Classic Line Bass Head
- For fans of: Poly-Math, AMTP
- Hear: I Don’t Do Drugs, I Just Sweat A Lot