Koïma is the second album the Malian folk-blues singer Sidi Touré has released on Thrill Jockey, a Chicago label best known for putting out post-rock bands like Tortoise and the Sea and Cake throughout the 1990s, and more recently for records by Liturgy and Future Islands. Basically, not Malian folk-blues. The label came to Touré through a demo he and his manager sent in because they were fans of Radian, a semi-obscure Viennese Thrill Jockey band that hasn't put out an album since 2009.
Sidi Toure is a guitar player and singer from Mali, whose 2011 debut album Sahel Folk, was praised by this reviewer on PopMatters last year. Follow-up album Koima is pleasant enough but fails to make a strong impression even after repeated listenings. Songs are built around Toure’s nimble acoustic guitar fingerpicking and reedy voice, often accompanied by a female harmony vocal.
For most American listeners, the steaming and billowy sounds of Malian desert blues are most familiar via the work of the Ry Cooder-championed guitarist, the late and magnificent Ali Farka Touré. Sidi Touré (no relation), a fellow countryman from the city of Gao (which can get as hot as 119 degrees Fahrenheit), plays guitar at the crossroads of American blues and Malian folk music, similarly to Ali Farka, but with an entirely different aura, despite the initial similarities. His second LP, Koïma, released via Thrill Jockey, is a brilliant evocation of the sublimated mirage spirits of the West African deserts.Malian guitar style is immediately recognizable.