Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Konono No 1: Konono No. 1 Meets Batida [Crammed Discs, 2016]
I always knew Batida's hard-ass beats were why I plucked his eponymous 2012 CD out of the welter of DJ albums--and knew they meant to be hard-ass, because that's how you translate the Angolan kuduro style he went electro with. But it took Crammed Discs schemer Vincent Kenis to alert me to the obvious: just as soukous's rippling polyrhythms once migrated south from Congo, there's a congruence between the modern Lusaka sound and the unforgiving attack of Kinshasa's 21st-century street bands--the much-missed Staff Benda Bilili and the self-renewing Konono No. 1. Now led by Agustin Makuntima Mawangu, whose late father originally rigged up their battery-powered likembes, Konono have always seemed a touch spare and samey at album length, and Batida is just the hard-ass to fill out their sonics without softening them. Here be guitars and handclaps, thick electronics and stuttering glitches, guest singers who can actually sing. Konono's steady improvement over four albums may have cost them primitivist cachet and novelty appeal. But don't be the kind of fool who thinks they're just repeating themselves. A-