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konono no.1 - Assume Crash Position
As anyone who has experienced them live or on the seminal Congotronics LP will testify, Konono No.1 are truly one of the most exceptional, visceral bands in the world. With a distorted, hypnotic and utterly beguiling sound they've electrified traditional Congolese Bazombo trance music with a backline array of speakers salvaged from the Belgian colonnial era and amplifiers constructed from scrapped magnets and discarded electronics. In their home of Kinshasa, DR Congo, Konono are an in-demand ensemble, playing to weddings and wakes alike, upholding a folk tradition descended from septuagenarian band leader Mawangu Mingiedi's roots in the Zombo tribe based in the hills on the Angolan border. However, their commercial and critical success outside their homeland far outweighs their reputation there. For 'Assume Crash Position', their second official album, they've worked with Belgian producer Vincent Kenis again to create an entrancing set of eight songs, some stretching out on a 12 minute locked groove, some sticking to an unusually brief slot. At the core of each track are the three likembes; modified and amplified thumb pianos set just slightly out of tune to each other plus relentlessly hypnotic percussion, and with this album an expanded line up of neighbourhood musicians from a young Konono covers band, members of Kasai Allstars, guitarist Manuaku Pepe Felly and guest vocalists. With Kenis's production treatments, they've applied a subtle layer of gloss to the sound, which may detract from the rawness of earlier records, but we can assure you that the effect is still as bewitching and energetic as ever. From the serendipitous thrill of hearing a wall collapse in the background on 'Makembe' to the undeniable thrust of 'Konono Wa Wa Wa' the group play with insistent, innate and commanding power. Just so so good.