EP Review: Chouk Bwa & The Ångströmers – Ayiti Kongo Dub #1: Fusing Haitian Voodou rhythms with techno intensity.

The Breakdown

This is music that breaks new boundaries, striking out for trance and transformation, celebrating the power of repetition and creating a potent blend of Voodou rhythms with heavy bass currents.
Bongo Joe Records 8.8

It was around this time a couple of years ago that the pairing of ceremonial drummers Chouk Bwa and techno extenders The Ångströmers’ first rumbled attention with their potent blend of Voodou rhythms and heavy bass currents. Their joint album ‘Vodou Ale’, released in 2020, stepped out way beyond any Haitian roots meets Belgian minimalism tag. This was more than fusion it was a fused new sound, respecting and reframing the raw energy of its origins. Springing out from the rhythmic core were bursts of vocal variation and electronic musical wiring that made for a fully charged connection. The vibe surrounding the partnership was lively but following ‘Vodou Ale’ they were forced to roll with the pandemic punches in the face of successive European tours being sunk. But now Chouk Bwa & The Ångströmers are very much back on it with a string of new releases ready for action, the first being an EP ‘Ayiti Kongo Dub #1,available on Bongo Joe from 1st July.

It’s a record that shows that the group have used those disrupted times to hone the collective’s shape and sharpen their focus. Trimming back to a five piece, two traditional Kongo drummers, Djopipi Henris on vocals and foundational ‘fe’ plus electro- injection from the Ångströmers’ duo, the group have driven syncopation even further into the heart of the sound. This is a record for those deepest bass bins and tallest stacks.

The extended, mesmeric ’Agwetaroyo’ takes over the EP’s Side A, propelled by fine- tuned rhythmic calibrations, the snares and hand drums tightening up to force an urgent, rising momentum. With The Ångströmers’ low- tone ballast keeping the track anchored in the groove, there’s space for Djopipi Herris’s swirling vocal incantations to snake around the cut’s insistent thrust. Such a leaner, harder sound sees the band striking out for trance and transformation, celebrating the power of repetition where subtle changes have a fabulous impact.

On the flip the hyper-paced ‘Vini Wè M’ pushes the raw voodou tensions further. Urged along by an unrelenting double time hand claps, the track is built around call and response between aggressive rounds of Kongos drums and relentless vocal exhortations. Beneath all the activity an underpinning electronic groan has ‘Vini Wè M’ shuddering, a meeting of the ancient and spiritual with the immense mechanisms of a modern world – it’s seriously addictive.

The third cut in the bundle ‘Similom’ delves down into the dub canyons with waves, breaks and reverberations, all vamping in eerily as the track hurtles on. Despite the pounding insistence of the beats, there is an improvisational looseness here that stretches from the yearning vocal devotionals to the drummers’ heated exchanges to the understated electronic commentary. It’s music that clearly breaks boundaries bringing new perspectives on what psych-folk can mean and re-defining the possibilities of experimental techno. As inventive as early Congotronics, as fiery as any Kampala electro blast, Chouk Bwa & The Ångströmers won’t fade away this time around – bring on Kongo Dub #2.

Pick up your copy of ‘Ayiti Kongo Dub #1’ from your local record store or direct from: https://choukbwa.bandcamp.com/album/ayiti-kongo-dub-1

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