A Drongo is a bird that imitates and manipulates other animals to get what it wants. That is, according to the Norwegian eight-piece band who go by the same name. Drongo channel the characteristics of this special songbird to make whatever music they desire. Their superb debut album, 1, navigates through krautrock, disco, and afrobeat, whilst also incorporating elements of electronica and noise. It’s an exhilarating amalgamation that makes for one of the most exciting debut records I’ve had the pleasure of listening to.
The music of 1 moves in passages, with patient build-up segments that rarely outstay their welcome. Song structures seem limitless, yet retain a sense of resolve and cohesiveness. The music ebbs and flows beautifully, locking into irresistible grooves and gradually bending them in different directions. The way in which tracks progress often reminds me of classic psychedelia, such as Caravan and Gong. 1 shares a similar sense of adaptability too. It can easily soundtrack your working day, but also provide the perfect setting for a variety of social gatherings. My bet, however, is that it’s best listened to live. Preferably in an intimate venue with like-minded music lovers. Here’s hoping.
It’s practically impossible to describe Drongo’s music without doing it a huge disservice. 1 draws inspiration from multiple genres, but it ultimately sounds wholly unique. Take a track like “Neshorn”, a three-minute glitchy, percussive build up to a a noise rock jam that sounds like it could have been taken from one of Daughters’ most recent records. It is a fucking phenomenal piece of music. I spoke about my tendency to head-nod ferociously in our review of Can’s Tago Mago, and Drongo often incites the same movement.
What’s most exciting about 1 is the potential for it to be the start of something quite extraordinary. It’s a remarkable blueprint to be expanded on in the future, if the band so desire. For now, Drongo have delivered one of the most satisfying and unique albums of the year. It is slightly front-loaded, in that the first half captivates me more than the second, but we’d be talking about a masterpiece if that quality was retained throughout.
Sometimes I feel slightly overwhelmed by the amount of new music that is released nowadays. There is so much good material that I’m often worried about sleeping on an excellent record. I’m delighted that Drongo didn’t slip under the radar. 1 will likely be one of my most-listened to albums of 2021, and I’ll be thrilled if my inevitable recommendations land the band more listeners. This is an essential experience. I’m already craving more.
8 out of 10
Crikey. Where did this come from? A basement in Norway, apparently. Norwegian basements must be pretty cool if this debut LP of experimental krautrock outfit Drongo is anything to go by. It’s a doozy. Meticulously played and beautifully produced to preserve its live-take verve, 1 is comfortably one of the best albums we’ve listened to this year.
Comprising six hefty, meandering tracks (each representing an animal), the music delights in its genre-bending explorations. Although krautrock looms large (I have no qualms saying the grooves hold their own with the best of Can and Kraftwerk) there is a lot more going on than any one label can contain. Opener “Katten” bursts out of the gate with a dazzling electronic flourish, while “Neshorn” grinds and rumbles along with the muscle of the finest post-rock. Each track is something of a cocktail, each served ice cold with a fancy garnish.
This breadth of sounds works so well because the playing itself is so focused. The band’s tightness gives tracks license to be fluid and adventurous, zipping between genres without ever feeling the slightest bit disjointed. The record delivers on the promise of its artwork, taking listeners on a spectacular musical safari. It’s a joyous, confident work - one to play through the sound system if you’re lucky enough to have one.
The record’s improbably-brilliant-jam mood is terrific fun, though that’s probably also why my score isn’t higher. 1 sets a high standard then maintains it, feeling like a showcase rather than a statement. What a cracking showcase it is, though. If there’s any justice in this world much more reputable websites than us will be writing about Drongo in the coming weeks and months.
8 out of 10
It’s a delight to happen upon genuinely enjoyable music and even more so when it’s a band’s debut. Drongo’s 1 labels itself as krautrock but takes no time breaking down genre walls and sprawling out in all sorts of directions.
With an album packed full of ten-minute instrumentals, Drongo could easily fall foul of outstaying their welcome or over-egging affairs. There’s no such misstep here. Opening with “Katten”, the band provides a taste of the goods before building a kinetic canter with a driving beat and Kraftwerkian counter-rhythms around the edges of the track. Ever-changing, this isn’t just a beat and a drone, kineticisms give way to ominous, gliding wails, which make a backdrop for eerie horns that flutter as the track drives to its climactic conclusion. It makes for an incredibly satisfying, fun experience, and it’s not just this track that pulls it off. “Hester” has delicate, tense breakdowns that build suspense for the track’s final leg, which modulates into an uplifting chord progression of effervescent guitar. “Neshorn” is a musical inkjet printer turned raging tribal pummel that drops into a treacly, noisy half time and enjoys its time there.
1 is an album that remains evocative throughout. It’s an album that makes a fine backing track or one that can hold your full attention for its duration. From performers to producers, there’s a wealth of skill on display here, sounding immaculate while retaining a raw, live energy.
At this point, I’m merely looking for nits to pick. The former half of the tracklist is where I’ve had the most fun, but don’t let that suggest there’s a drop in quality as the album progresses. I’d love to hear some more of the horns from “Katten” and sludge from “Neshorn” too, but the album still has a lot more on offer.
It’s an exciting prospect, finding a band sounding this good with their debut. Given how much fun we’ve all had with 1, we’ll be keeping an eye on what Drongo come up with in the future, and in the meantime, I’ll certainly be telling everyone I can about them.
8 out of 10