Konono No1 dropped their third album Assume Crash Position earlier in the year, and again despite the other two it sounded like it had just dropped out of the sky. Their sound is so incredible, so alien. Of course the sky is actually the Democratic Republic of Congo and their sound is that of poorly amplified thumb piano’s played in an hypnotic trance style. It’s where the Congotronics tag came from and from under this wing emerged similarly messed up alien genius like Kasai Allstars, a 25 piece collective who also play electrified traditional music.
So now their label has done something totally amazing and unexpected and farmed out the tunes to the cool indie kids. So now we’ve got everyone from Animal Collective to Deerhoof tackling these tunes over two discs. Each artist approaches the work in their own unique style, some are straight out remixes, some are inspired by the tunes, such as New York quintet Skeletons who use Sobanza Mimanisa’s Kiwembo as inspiration, screaming “we’re playing likembe’s,” over and over.
This album is nothing short of incredible. Remix albums can be tired, this by contrast is overflowing with ideas. Whether it’s Tussle’s taut kraut disco funk, where they focus on the polyrhythmic percussion within Konono No1’s music, or Portland based Au’s frenetic eastern melodies on Masanka Sankayi’s Two Labors, it’s clear that the source material really inspired the collaborators. Burnt Friedman uses elements of Konono No 1’s Rubaczech in his typically highly percussive electro dubby outing, whilst Eye from the Boredoms takes Konono Wa Wa Wa to a noisy dance-floor, offering not only the most aggressively funky music on the disc, but also the highlight. Andrew Bird slows things down and gets the strings out, Juana Molina drapes one of her earlier tunes over the Kasai Allstars, Oneida sound like they’re tearing your speakers apart, but Konono No 1 make it fun, like a jig, whilst Shackleton, Optimo, Glen Kotche (Wilco), Lonely Drifter Karen and a bunch of others all twist, tear and impose themselves upon this incredible music. Every style you can imagine is represented, but even amongst them new species are forming. This is truly incredible music. Every tune. Every moment.
Bob Baker Fish