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KOKOKO!'s BUTU is a shouty, sweaty treat


Release date: 05 July 2024
03 July 2024, 12:00 Written by Janne Oinonen

In Democratic Republic of Congo, where the group originates from, ‘Kokoko’ works as an onomatopoeic expression to describe a knock on the door.

The relentless, dense and intensely physical second album from the loose collective rooted in Kinshasa doesn’t so much knock on a door as blow it off it hinges, like a Big Bad Wolf dominating the dancehall at an illicit all-night drinkery, fueled by chants, electronics and yelling.

Oh yes, the yelling. It’s possibly not a coincidence and certainly fitting that the group’s name concludes with an exclamation mark: the ethos of BUTU is unabashedly maximalist, with everything turned up to 11, and decibel and distortion readings often hitting the top end of the overdriven red zone.

Helmed by Makara Bianko and producer Xavier Thomas (aka Débruit), BUTU is a different beast altogether from Konono!’s deservedly acclaimed 2019 debut Fongola. That record operated on a combustible cocktail of cutting-edge electronics and rickety DYI grooves cooked up on improvised instruments conjured out of little more than discarded garbage, and frequently found time to luxuriate in the hypnotic potential of the spaces between the notes and percussion blasts. With the line-up reduced to the core duo of Bianko and Thomas due to the constraints and physical separation of covid, the hyperactive contents of BUTU are more recognisable as electronic or even dance music (especially the house-flavoured single “Mokili”). The album’s title means ‘the night’ in Lingala, and it doesn’t take that much effort to imagine a nocturnal scene in a hectic city like Kinshasa – the humid heat, car horns blaring, exhaust fumes, assorted varieties of noise emerging from bars – when venturing into BUTU’s cacophony-courting world.

Frequently, Bianko’s vocals come across like a street vendor who absolutely won’t take no for an answer, roaring hoarsely at full lung capacity, raising the volume and heating up the intensity until all attempts to resist the aggressive sales pitch fail. It’s an apt accompaniment to the album’s dense, clattering electronics which rarely venture below sweat-soaked intensity, but find space for alluring detail (playful application of echo, polyrhythmic splendour) that helps avoid the album becoming an unappealingly monotonous sensory overload. It’s hard to think of a record with such an uncompromising, borderline claustrophobic dedication to toying with utter unadulterated yet vibrantly rhythmic racket since the distorted finger piano workouts of the first Konono No. 1 record, definite fellow subscribers to a rusted-out aesthetic, and perhaps not coincidentally also from Kinshasa, although BUTU admittedly lacks the variety and shade of its predecessor.

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