Kokono No. 1 - Live at Couleur Café
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Konono No. 1
Live at Couleur Café
Crammed Discs (www.crammed.be)

With their electrified likembes (a plucked instrument of metal prongs fastened to a resonator), recycled junk percussion, relentless rhythms and otherworldly melodic sense, Konono No. 1 has spent the last three decades making Congolese music that's as far removed from rumba and soukous as can be. But it's only recently that they've achieved greater worldwide recognition for what they are: ahead-of-their-time trailblazers in the realm of electronic dance/trance music. Actually their sound is more ancient than modern, sporting amplification techniques considered crude by today's standards and grooves lifted from the traditional Bazombo music of the Congo's border regions with Angola. Live at Couleur Café shows them at their full-throttle best. The airy but furious riffing of the likembes, which are similar to Zimbabwean mbiras, can sound like everything from marimbas to muted highlife guitars thanks to an amplification system that includes liberal use of megaphones for controlled distortion. While the percussion section deftly clanks and thumps along, likembes and voices construct intricately repetitive (if a little too much so at times) melodic layers that quickly begin to rearrange everything your brain thought it knew about listening to music. But what could easily turn into cacophony is very musical indeed. Dense and challenging, these "Congotronics" are also light and carefree, and they groove with the same locomotion as juju, Afrobeat or any other polyrhythmic style. If you've heard Konono No. 1's previous studio recordings and gotten hooked, grab this one to see how well they deliver in concert. If they're new to you, consider this an ideal introduction. - Tom Orr

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