Konono Nº 1

Live at Couleur Café | Crammed Discs
By BANNING EYRE  |  September 24, 2007
3.0 3.0 Stars
This band’s amped-up likembe (thumb piano) trance music put the trendy world-music subgenre known as Congotronics on the map. Village funeral musicians transplanted to the teeming megalopolis of Kinshasa, and more recently the international stage, Konono retain plenty of raw funk even as their sound and stage show get more polished. Recorded in a Belgian nightclub, these eight songs often flow together, as if the band’s ceaseless engine were simply shifting gears. But songs hardly matter here; groove and sonic texture are everything. On “A.E.I.O.U.,” the highest-pitched likembe jumps to the fore with playful lyricism while the bass likembe becomes a blurred layer of distortion that moves in like a storm cloud and leaves bright sunshine in its wake. On “Kule Kule” — the most chilled-out groove in the set — likembes drop out to the benefit of percussion and vocals. Call-and-response vocal lines are arranged in stark, parallel harmony; it’s far edgier than the sweetly perfect vocal blend heard in mainstream Congo pop.
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