Words by Max Reinhardt
The junkyard Afro-gamelan trance beasts return
It’s 12 years now since Congotronics, the debut album of Konono No 1, but their manic roots energy continues to hurtle along its unstoppable and seductive trajectory. They remain a game changer for Congolese and African music, a supercharged, overdriven, distortion-powered form of future contemporary garage trance, forged out of stomping Congolese rhythms, customised traditional instruments, used car parts and redundant old electronics. Their gigs and their albums are a joy and their riotous collective minimalism never fails to intrigue and lock you into their zone. And now here comes their encounter with Batida (aka Pedro Coquenão), a Portuguese-Angolan producer-DJ. They sweep us up on an ecstatically rough ride to the far horizon, where rhythmic trance meets kuduro-rinsed electronica.
Batida’s records, up to now, have been filled with thrilling gear changes of rhythm and texture and my fear was that he might interrupt the Konono flow. Far from it. Batida has been absorbed into their funky trance template and he adds to the minimalist tension, so you hear all the micro-rhythmic changes even more clearly. There’s Portuguese rapping and a variety of sampled textures that he brings into the mix too. It’s all grist to Konono’s ever-turning mill. This album is a sonic continuum to get lost in, and it’s already approaching the summit of my albums of the year list.