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Album Review: Various Artists, 'Tradi-Mods Vs Rockers' (Crammed Discs)

Indie and dance's finest come together to pay an inventive tribute to the Congo's vital electro scene.

It is not uncommon to hear a band proclaim they are from ‘the street’. But few can claim such with the honesty of the Congolese group Konono No. 1. This musical troupe sprang from the Kinshasa gutter, armed with all manner of scrap metal drums and home-built speakers with debut album, 2004’s ‘Congotronics’. Konono quickly won fans from Björk to Simpsons creator Matt Groening, who booked them to play his ATP.

But ‘Tradi-Mods Vs Rockers’ suggests that the influence of Congotronics – now a catch-all category for forward-thinking music from the war-torn Democratic Republic Of The Congo – stretches rather further.

In this 26-track compilation, a cross-section of smart indie bands (Animal Collective, Deerhoof, Oneida) and leftfield dance producers (Shackleton, Optimo, Bass Clef) set about a series of covers, reworks, and tracks ‘inspired by’ Konono and their peers’ mix of trad African dance and junk invention. That it doesn’t come across as patronising is down to the sheer amount of ideas on display. Deerhoof cover the Kasai Allstars’ ‘Travel Broadens The Mind’, vocalist Satomi Matsuzaki candy-sweet amidst jerky funk rhythms. Animal Collective dismember the same band’s ‘Quick As White’ and take it on a romp.

It’s not perfect. Micachu And The Shapes’ take on Konono No. 1’s ‘NO K’ is a wonky chop-up that loses its way. But it does seem to confirm that the most successful tracks here are the ones that grip a rhythm and don’t let go (see the murky chasms of bass drone on Shackleton’s ‘Mukuba Special’ or the twirling, dervish patterns of EYE from Boredoms’ ‘Konono Wa Wa Wa’). Tasteful? No. Excellent? Indisputably.

Louis Pattison

Click here to get your copy of ‘Tradi-Mods VS Rockers: Alternative Takes On Congotronics’ from the Rough Trade shop.

What do you think of the album? Let us know by posting a comment below.

8 / 10

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