For us Westerners, dealing with repetitive music requires developing new listening skills. Rather than melodic events, one must zero in on details – an appealing repetitive motion or an absorbing bit of friction between elements.
The press has tossed around a few fancy, indie-rock-targeted names as points of comparison for this Congolese ensemble: Can, 70’s Miles Davis. Influenced by African groups, these artists zeroed in on patterns, and although the music was rarely the sort to reach mass audiences, these patterns have held intense appeal for some.
Like Miles’ On the Corner, this CD spends a lot of time in a few musical areas. (In fact, like On the Corner, it does so obsessively enough that it can leave you wondering if you’ve cued up the same track twice by mistake.) The likembe (thumb piano) dominates the disc, along with layers of percussion and a few vocal chants. It’s rhythmic and exuberant, but, at least for this listener, the ride is a bit too smooth and the repetitive motion not quite hypnotic enough to spark repeated visits. The exceptions are the most stripped-down tracks: the drum-centric “Thin Legs” and the poignant, voice-and-likembe closer “Nakobala Lisusu Te.”
Tastes in friction and repetitive motion are highly subjective, perhaps more so than taste in melody. The press on this band also mentions many famous fans, such as Matt Groening and Thom Yorke. For them, and for others curious about non-Western events, this exploration is there for the taking.