Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide by Review Date: 2017-11-24

2017-11-24

DRC Music: Kinshasa One Two (Warp, 2011) Damon Albarn production collective members evoke rather than focus Congo post-soukous for atmosphere, enlightenment, and Oxfam ("Hallo," "We Come From the Forest") *

Kasai Allstars: Around Félicité (Crammed Discs, 2017) The fourth album from this biz-fabricated, many-armed Congotronics aggregation is a discographical muckup from a label always happy to exploit "world music" fans' craving for the next different thing. It comes with two add-ons. The first is a bonus disc of remixes, which makes three of the things total since the group was conjured up in 2008--their second album was a by no means terrible all-remix double-CD enlisting rock-oriented meddlers whose point of entry was sonic. This time, as one might hope, it's dance guys, who set themselves to foregrounding and embellishing the groove's through-line. And that's only the extra added attraction. The occasion is a film soundtrack in which some songs repeat from earlier albums and, hang on to your ears, three tracks are symphonic snippets by Ärvo Part. Despite a soupçon of authenticité from the Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste, these do spoil the mood. Solution: burn a CD-ROM consisting entirely of the Kasai Allstars material the film celebrates, cherrypicks, exploits, whatevs. The result is the best Kasai best-of anyone will likely ever own--eight tracks spread over 52 buzzy, groovy, echoey, multivocal minutes. A-

Kasai Allstars: Congotronics 5: Beware the Fetish (Crammed Discs, 2014) Inconveniently, it's true--12 songs over 102 minutes do get samey ("Beware the Fetish," "The Chief's Enthronement/Oyaya") **

Kasai Allstars: Tradi-Mods Vs Rockers (Crammed Discs, 2010) Congo legends lend status to white remixers, who never wreck the Africans' cultural identity and even texture it sometimes (Deerhoof vs Kasai Allstars, "Travel Broadens the Mind"; Mark Ernestus vs Konono No 1, "Masikulu Dub"; Eye vs Konono No 1, "Konono Wa Wa Wa"; Skeletons vs Sobanza Mimanisa, "Kiwembo/Unstuck") **

Siama: Rivers: From the Congo to the Mississippi (self-released, 2016) With foundation help he deserves, hard-traveling Minneapolis soukous guitarist makes something varied and delicious of the kind of world-music amalgam others turn to goo ("Ndombolo," "Yeke Yele") ***

Afrobeats Hot Hits: New Urban Dance Grooves From Africa (Shanachie, 2017) This strangely spelled, cartoonishly pitch-corrected Nigerian style is not to be confused with Fela Kuti's oh so singular Afrobeat, and don't worry, you won't. Purportedly "a high-octane mash-up of Jamaican dancehall, Soca, Hip-Hop and African rhythms," I'd call Afrobeats plural a high-electro smoosh-together of catchy clichés from all those places and more, with beats cruder than hip-hop's or Afropop's rendering it utilitarian international club fodder. For stay-at-home laggards and office drones with earphone privileges, it's new novelty music, hence fresher than old novelty music. Afrobeats flash Wizkid furnishes use value with a collab on the standout "Crazy," which goes, in my orthography: "I'm in love with my bé-bé / I'm in love with my bé-bé / I'm in love with my bé-bé yé-yé / He's been drivin me crazé." If that one doesn't do it for you, the rest won't. If it does, take a chance. B+

Zaire 74: The African Artists (Wrasse, 2017) Two CDs from Mobutu's Ali-Foreman festival, one striking (masterful Franco, savvy Makeba, rude Orchestra Stukas) and one merely historic (hyper Taby Ley, breathy Abeti Masikini) (Franco and T.P.O.K. Jazz, "Kasai"; Miriam Makeba, "Amampondo"; Orchestra Stukas, "Elatina") **

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