A horrible hack

Konono No.1 - The Dead C


Year Released: 2005
Format: 12" EP
Label: Fat Cat Records
Reviewed by Kunal Nandi on Jun 13, 2007
Barring that 12” with the Roots remix of a Fela Kuti track and a Groinchurn split album, you could count the number of records I own by African bands on precisely no hands. Pitiful, especially when you consider the absolutely stunning efforts by Konono No.1 here. This fascinating band hail from The Federal Republic of Congo, where their fusion of the traditional and modern has enabled them to break out into more mainstream experimental rock circles, whatever that means. As if their main influence of Bazombo trance music didn’t make this alien enough, the band use their own home-made amplification, made from such discarded items such as old car parts and megaphones, unique electric likembés (an instrument also known as a “thumb piano”) and makeshift percussion to create a stunningly primal soup of sound. What it actually sounds like is hard to explain, but imagine a carnival atmosphere of almost (if you’ll excuse the cliché) tribalistic music, totally atonal at times, bolstered by raw electric amplification to a beautifully trance-inducing state of sheer volume and a groove like nothing else on Earth. And they’ve been doing it for 25 years. Get in, this is educational.

New Zealand’s The Dead C has been going for a mere 18 years in comparison, but has managed to squeeze out 20 albums of their curious brand of improvised, experimental rocking in that time, picking up such diehard fans as Sonic Youth along the way. Their work ethic has them laying themselves bare in the studio, playing live, allowing no retakes, overdubs or chances to undo those fuck-ups. The results are remarkably naturalistic as you might expect, all jammy and otherworldly. A clanging, feedback-drenched, just plain noisy, psych-rock workout during the first track gives way to an almost run-of-the-mill depressed bit of indie-rock, with the other two tracks slathered with total amplifier breakdown. It’s bizarre, obscure and unfathomable for sure, but blissful and intriguing at the same time, somehow complementing the other side. Incidentally, this sterile promotional CD sadly omits the opening five locked grooves, apparently laden with “slices of molten, lava-fold noise”.

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