Album release: The Intergalactic Republic Of Kongo by I.R.O.K.
Release date: January 14
Label: Acid Bath Records
Listen: on Facebook
I.R.O.K. stands for exploration, abandonment, music as a physical force to take you outside of yourself. To transcend time and space. This they do through the ferocious futurist synth-driven, psychotropic Afro-punk of their self titled debut album. It is by turns majestic, epic, unnerving, riotous and always nothing less than lysergically deranged and technicolour at all times.
Here is a place where big techno meets Oi!-style football terrace-sized choruses. It is Damon Albarn’s Africa Express derailed and pile-driving unmanned through the lunar landscape at a hundred miles an hour.
The concept was dreamt up by front-man Mike Title on the concrete stands of a North African football match, his aim to channel those feelings of chaos, ecstasy and panic felt beneath the hot sun that day. To kick rock’s rotting corpse back into life. “Not since Bowie created Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars has there been a British band with so singular a vision,” noted one early review.
Though I.R.O.K formed in London in 2010 it is Morocco that serves as their spiritual home – their life force. Because far from flirting with its imagery and sound from the safety of the city, much of I.R.O.K.’s career to date has been spent journeying down the coastline, across the mountain ranges and into the Sahara. Singer Mike Title was born and raised in East London. His mother’s family are Berber, from the southern regions of North Africa.
Rather than touring the toilet circuit of Britain, I.R.O.K. have looked to more tropical climates in which to cut their teeth. A typical tour involves arriving in Morocco with some instruments and a few local contacts. A venue is found, a sound system erected, the word spread and within hours the impromptu party begins. This is true DIY guerrilla punk in ethos. It’s ritualistic; it’s rock ‘n’ roll reinvented for a new world.
“Morocco is so magical because it’s so Paganist,” says Mike Title. “You get to live in the moment - but in another time. Islam, Christianity and Judaism are only a few hundred or a few thousand years old but in Morocco you can go deep to traditions and cultures that go back to the dawn of our consciousness. There’s nothing like it. There’s a sense of purity that modern corporations are dying to extinguish from our minds. To be part of any ancient culture is a blessing, a source of comfort. To appreciate another culture is one thing but to be truly consumed by it is magical.”
From tiny neighbourhood shops to sports grounds to beaches to the desert, when I.R.O.K. play for the locals who have never seen or heard sounds like this before it is a musical Year Zero. I.R.O.K.’s true influence will be measured by the bands who form in their wake. One of these trips was filmed as a documentary and can be viewed on Vice magazine’s Noisey channel.
When not in North Africa, I.R.O.K have also played a clutch of UK festivals and made in-roads to mainland Europe. They’ve shared stages with like-minded folk such as Azealia Banks, Death Grips and Kavinsky and released the singles OO AA OO, All My Children and God – all accompanied by memorable videos available to watch online now – as well as a clutch of remixes and mix albums that give an insight into their world.
And now they drop twelve-track debut album The Intergalactic Republic Of Kongo, a musical document of their journeys into the external and internal hinterlands of the 21st century and which can comfortably sit amidst the work of Funkadelic, latter-day PiL, The Prodigy and the films of Jodorowsky, while the band themselves cite disparate influences such as Prince, Fela Kuti, Crass, Omar Souleyman, Sun Ra and Suicidal Tendencies as artists they love.
Back in Britain in the present day rock bands are floundering as they struggle to find their identities, continually taking their cues from the past and recycling the same old clichés. I.R.O.K. instead present a glimpse into the future...they pull back the curtain of reality and give us a flavour of another dimension.
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