[29 May 2009]
In the age of the nanosecond soundbite, you have to admire an album with no less than twenty-six syllables in its title; after listening to the antediluvian drone-funk within, you’ll be hard pushed to mumble any of them. Wielding instruments “far easier to find.. in the museums of the northern hemisphere than in the Congolese cities or countryside”, Kasai Allstars chart a relentless course to glassy-eyed trancedom, shaking a headfeather at centuries of colonial and religious censure and ultimately leaving you wondering what day it is, never mind what track you’re listening to. It begins with the liquefied flub of ancient percussion, burbling away under spasms of aggravated thumb piano, a wasps’ nest wrestling with a Gatling gun. Rhythmic and harmonic tropes circle each other intently, endlessly, as voices intone in tandem and guitars spill flinty cataracts. In their multi-ethnic make-up, the face-painted, twenty-something strong Allstars chant a slightly more devolved game than fellow marimba manglers Konono No.1, but the cumulative effect is similar, a sustained concussion of sound, a kind of sonic vertigo that subverts the cliché of Congo as perpetual victim.