Band: Numidia | Album: Numidia | Year: 2019 | Genre: Psychedelic rock, Progressive rock, Blues rock
From: Sydney, Australia | Label: Nasoni Records
For fans of: Elder, Erkin Koray, Quiet Child, Pink Floyd, North African blues
There seems to be a correlation between regions that are mostly desert and the production of psychedelic blues. The American Southwest has a fertile scene, and the Berber peoples of the Maghreb and Sahel have given birth to a unique fusion of blues, blues-rock, and their own native traditions. Maybe it’s something about the vast stretches of empty land that leads to this particular brand of earthy, mantra-like rock music. It would make sense, then, that Australia would have some contributions to this sound.
Numidia are a quintet hailing from Sydney (which, notably, is wetter than the Pacific Northwest or the British Isles) that plays a brand of meditative, desert-tinged blues rock with the sensibilities and stylings of classic 1970s progressive rock acts blended in. Explicit overtures are made toward Middle Eastern and North African music as well.
Their self-titled debut album swims gleefully in fuzzed out guitars. The rhythm section pushes the music along with purpose, and the Hammond organ and synthesizers help fill the gaps. They deftly move between driving rockers and moments of mellow meditation, often in the span of the same song.
Almost as if putting out a mission statement, this album opens up with “Türkü”, a reinterpretation of a Turkish folk song, which was notably first translated into the vocabulary of rock music by legendary Turkish guitarist Erkin Koray. But where Mr. Koray’s version of “Türkü” kept its folk flavors, Numidia have turned it into a snarling, lurching, metallic monster. The riff that the song is built around keeps the tension high, and the bass growls with a level of distorted aggression not often heard outside of certain metal subgenres.
After this opening assault, “Azawad” is a comparative idyll. This song’s roots are in Tuareg blues, and it floats along with harmonized vocals and gradually-building instrumentation. The guitars slowly pile up, the drums crash ever more aggressively, and everything builds to quite the satisfying crescendo.
The title track is the most overtly proggy composition on the album. The riffs are jagged and irregular, reminding me a lot of “Türkü”, and Hammond organ receives its most prominent mixing here. Despite being the second-shortest song on the album, it’s complex.
“Red Hymn” is another highlight. It’s a slow-moving, smoky, soulful piece. Mostly instrumental, the sparse lyrics are chanted in a near-mantra over simple percussion and jangling, blues-inflected guitar licks for the first few minutes. Just shy of the halfway mark, the song shifts into movement reminiscent of “Maggot Brain”. A sorrowful guitar solo, channeling David Gilmour, builds over thundering bass as the tinkling guitar arpeggios and pounding drums build to an intense climax.
I can’t find much fault with this album. I’ll openly own up to having a low tolerance for most blues and blues rock, and there are a few points—particularly in quieter moments, like the closing “Te Waka”—where the music feels less purposeful and more aimless and meandering. But this album does not wear out its welcome, nor does it ever reach the levels of tedium I often feel when listening to a lot of modern blues rock. Numidia have made a bold, aggressive first impression with this debut album, tactfully mixing influences as disparate as Tuareg folk music and Pink Floyd.