Konono No. 1’s third album is, like it’s two predecessors, a live recording. Its track selection overlaps significantly with Lubuaku (Terp) and Congotronics (Crammed). In particular, “Kule Kule” — known to people who first learned about the band from the Ex’s Turn (Touch And Go) as “Theme From Konono” — shows up as the record’s beginning, middle and end. Even the non-repeaters sound a lot like tunes you’ve heard on the other discs. At this point it’s starting to look like the band only has one arrow in its quiver. Nonetheless, if you have any affection for the Konono sound, you need this disc.
For a start, it’s a hell of sound. Bandleader Mawangu Mingiedi and crew’s home-made thumb pianos might no longer play through a home-made sound-system — the last time the band played Chicago, they played the things through some nice-looking Fender guitar amps — but they still have that utterly distinctive tone, as bright as the gold in a spaghetti western villain’s smile and sharper than the shiv he hides in his boot. The way the drummers sustain their driving grooves still demonstrates endurance that would be the envy of a Tantric yogi. The singers still weave their chants in and out of the patterns with machine-like rhythmic perfection. And the hooks still set in the brain over and over, like your favorite fishing lure that keeps snagging those catch ‘n’ release trout.
Really, the only news is that producer-engineer Vincent Kenis helped the band get past the hurdle of high-quality recording without tripping. Their sound has never come through with more definition or force. It’s fundamentally unchanged, just more in your face than ever. And that's saying something.