After breaking onto the international stage with their 2013 release Kaani, West African combo Tal National follow up with the dazzlingly sophisticated Zoy Zoy. Based in Niamey, the capital of Niger, Tal National blend an array of styles like highlife, Songhai, Afro-beat, and desert blues into their music, ultimately transcending traditions and flashing the kind of intense musicianship only achieved by those who gig every night for hours on end, which is purportedly the norm for this gifted band. Although they have existed since 2000, they had yet to release a record outside of their home country before British label FatCat Records signed them in 2013. Already the most popular group in Niger, they upped their production game by flying in Chicago-based engineer Jamie Carter to record them using a remote rig to make Kaani, a process they've repeated to even greater results on Zoy Zoy. More aggressively played and weirdly shape-shifting than its predecessor, Zoy Zoy is also a joyous and celebratory set using its complexity to draw in rather than exclude the listener. With members representing each of Niger's major cultural groups (Tuareg, Hausa, Fulani, and Zarma), Tal National radiate with a wonderfully unified yet artistically adventurous sound on standouts like the title cut and the thrilling "Claire." The sparkling twin-guitar riffs and dizzying rhythmic patterns on tracks like "Sey Wata Gaya" and "Kodaje" feel at times like some sunny brand of prog rock, but Tal National's graceful vocal melodies with their call-and-response counterpoint are distinctly West African. Bold, inventive, and exhilarating, the eight songs on Zoy Zoy are in a genre of their own.
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AllMusic Review by Timothy Monger