Dirtmusic is essentially Chris Eckman and Hugo Race and on this album, their 5th, they are joined by Turkish psych visionary Murat Ertel.

In the past I have been more than a little entranced by their collaborations with Tamikrest and their work in Bamako Mali but this is definitely a step further – in short, magnificent.

Right from the opening track ‘Bi De Sen Soyle’ you are taken to an otherworldly place. Guitar grumbling and howling over a hypnotic desert beat. Chris Eckman’s vocals are equally mesmerising, dark and setting a contra-melody, in the background is the trilling of a single ululating voice and the sense of being in the maelstrom is palpable. This is some of the most intense and engaging music I have ever heard.

The mood lightens – a little – with ‘Border Crossing’. The vocal is more questioning and the music lifts slightly in pace but there is still the sense of an endless desert, borders being an unnecessary encumbrance between places that are the same and separating people who are the same. The insistent beat is purposeful, no sense of desperation, and the guitars only add to the confidence.

‘Love Is A Foreign Country’ is deeply emotive with an intense sense of heartache and loss while ‘Go The Distance’ is the most western track here, the beat feeling, to me, that it has its origins in rave culture but once more the instrumentation is very much from the east.

The album has a more Arabic feel than their collaborations in Mali and Dirtmusic are most definitely stretching their musical horizons. The overall sense of the album is of unfocussed travels in a foreign landscape but always of travelling in hope and without fear.

An incredibly strong album to kick off the year, Dirtmusic are proving to be so much more than Griot wanabees.