In late 2012, the year after Yann Tambour aka Stranded Horse last graced us with an album, ’Humbling Tides’, the itinerant composer/multi-instrumentalist dispatched a postcard in the form of a 7” from Dakar, Senegal, where he had undertaken a residency at the city’s French Institute. Its two tracks – including an unlikely cover, a pitch-perfect take on the Joy Division classic ’Transmission– displayed Tambour’s own, increasingly assured kora playing, tightly woven with that of distinguished local player Boubacar Cissokho, the cousin and protege of erstwhile Tambour collaborator Ballake Sissoko; further augmented by fulani violin and balafon.
A second trip to Senegal followed in summer 2013. Further solo touring saw Yann haul his homemade koras across the world, gathering new friends and old records as he roamed across Western and Central Europe, Russia, Japan, China, the US and North Africa.
Finally home for a spell in late 2013, and with a set of recordings from the two Dakar trips as a jump-off point, Yann began working on the next chapter, undertaking further sessions closer to home in Paris and Nantes, augmenting the Dakar material and adding new tracks. The end result is ’Luxe’ (’Luxury’ in English), the new Stranded Horse album and the strongest progression yet along the path embarked upon with debut LP ’Churning Strides’, 8 years ago.
With five of its nine songs sung in English and the rest in French, the ensemble arrangements hinted at on ‘Humbling Tides’, find full bloom on ’Luxe’. Two tracks are elevated by the gossamer vocal timbre of Eloïse Decazes (Arlt), and there are contributions across the record from Cissokho, along with Poulo K andBakoutoubo Dambakhate (both of whom played on the Dakar-recorded 7”), Amaury Ranger (Francois And The Atlas Mountains), Sarah Murcia, Papis Morin Mbaye andVacarme .
Check listings anywhere in the world on any given night and chances are you’ll find Tambour playing – indeed the Stranded Horse touring compass is being reset as you read this – yet on this album he sounds rooted, right at home in the lap of ’Luxe’. With the kora still so often the fluid centrifugal force of the music, one cannot help but hear echoes of his African experiences…but more than ever, and with the help of his friends from near and far, on ’Luxe’ Stranded Horse binds his ever-expanding sphere of influence into something greater than the sum of its parts, moving towards a truly cosmopolitan means of capturing song.