mon 27/06/2022

Album: Congotronics International - Where’s The One? | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Congotronics International - Where’s The One?

Album: Congotronics International - Where’s The One?

Cultural sharing of the most life-affirming and necessary kind

Cover art by Juana Molina

The album title ‘Where’s the One?’ is the question that often cropped up during the album’s creation. That’s to say, ‘the One’ is the opening beat of each bar that the western rock musicians often had trouble locating in the rich, complex brew of distorted thumb pianos, duelling guitars and intricately overlaid percussion generated by the Congolese musicians.

And in some instances, the mystery was never solved. But clearly this problem became a mere technicality when the band of 10 rock musicians (including Deerhoof, Wildbirds & Peacedrums and Juana Molina) joined 10 Congolese musicians (from Konono No 1 and the Kasai Allstars) to embark on an international tour back in 2011.

The resulting recordings along with some new tracks – largely essembled long-distance by exchanging sound files – has resulted in one of the most borderline chaotic but absolutely joyous and exciting recordings I’ve heard in a long time. But it’s the Argentine composer and singer Molina who seems to nail 'the One' most productively. In fact she is a strong enough musical force in her own right to become the defining aspect of tracks such as “Rebila” and “Ambulayi Tshaniye” – which actually wouldn’t sound out of place on any of her own albums.

There are also one or two old favourites here, for those familiar with Konono No 1 and the Kasai Allstars work over the last 15 years or more. To my delight the almost march-like “Kule Kule” crops up again in a new dense and raucous guise (Tradi Mods Vs Rockers – the only album of remixes I’ve never tired of – contains an epic and ominous orchestral version by Jherek Bischoff). Harmonious yet dissonant, heavy yet weightless, this powerful exercise in the coming together of very different musical worlds could be Exhibit Number One for the defence in any argument about cultural appropriation: for this is cultural sharing of the most life-affirming and, I would argue, necessary kind.

One of the most borderline chaotic but absolutely joyous and exciting recordings I’ve heard in a long time

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