One of the highlights of Asheville, N.C. troupe Toubab Krewe’s 2005 self-titled debut is “Asheville to Abidjan,” a vibrant beat-driven affair that offers a firm declaration of direction for the instrumental quintet. Blending a jammy explorative vibe and sterling musicianship with worldbeat, the band’s made several trips to West Africa to witness the rhythmic Mali style they favor first hand. Two percussionists (one traditional, the other tribal) and a bassist key the bottom end while Drew Heller and Justin Perkins switch between guitar, piano, fiddle, and indigenous African harp-lutes, such as the kora and the kamelengoni. The debut’s approach lands somewhere between Paul Simon’s Graceland and Widespread Panic. It’s droning, somewhat repetitive, and eminently groovy. Last year’s follow-up TK2 is a clear progression. It’s looser and funkier, sounding less beholden to their initial inspirations and freer to chase their groove through the brambles. The spacey spirit suggests head-lolling dub and reggae more than the propulsion of African drumming. Songs like the 10-minute “One Night Watkins” nearly disappear into silence before rallying back to life. At times, it’s too laid-back and drifting, teasing anticipation for a third album which finds the middle ground between their first two.
Price: $15 (adv.)