Congolese-Belgian singer-songwriter Marie-Pierra Kakoma aka Lous and the Yakuza, documented her marginalised roots on breakout album ‘Gore’ – a survivor’s chronicle of a peripatetic life spent careering from peril to peril. Kakoma was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a nation scarred by the tremors of post-colonial legacy; she relocated with her family to a hostile neighbourhood in Brussels, later moving to Rwanda before returning to Brussels in 2011. Kakoma was disinherited and cast away by her parents after choosing to pursue a career in music over the ordained field of medicine; temporarily homeless, she’d decamp to studios while working menial jobs, profusely creating EPs and writing letters to Columbia with the hopes of landing a deal. Her diligence paid off and the label came calling.
On ‘Gore’, Kakoma explored the external calamities of her early life with grace and humour, on new album ‘IOTA’, she surveys the liminality of adulthood; seeking love, community and interdependence, eventually finding peace with the only relationship that truly matters – the one she has with herself. Driven by a life-long love of Japanese anime and manga (the ‘Yakuza’ in her artist name is an acknowledgement of her co-creators), particularly the illusionist art of late auteur Satoshi Kon and the graphic work of Kazuo Kamimura, Kakoma journeys through a brusque, neon-lit world as a lissom humanoid experiencing stormy romantic entanglements, trying to maintain her spiritual fortitude.
Opener ‘Ciel’ sees Kakoma genuflecting at the altar, a choral chant doused in white noise setting the tone for songs that pulse with a heightened sense of purpose. Fans wanting the accessibility of ‘Gore’ will enjoy the tuneful trap of ‘Interpol’ and the schoolyard sing-along to the hard grind ‘La Money’. As a whole, ‘IOTA’ is a patchwork companion piece and continuation of her work with trusted collaborator El Guincho. Their partnership bears fruit on tracks like ‘Autodéfense’, a polyphonic highlight that segues into the dark dembow heat of ‘Takata’: El Guincho’s efficacious formula of fragmented and skittish beats perfectly frame Kakoma’s sharp staccato phrasing. Where at times Kakoma was in thrall to the curated gloss on ‘Gore’, her voice – more inflected and modulated here – is the primary conduit to emotion on ‘IOTA’.
‘IOTA’s’ streamlined song cycle is a refreshing departure from crammed and uneven feature-length releases, that proffer too much of nothing in the hopes they’ll clog the upper echelons of streaming charts. The album does momentarily lose its sense of momentum midway through until the psychedelic RnB of ‘Kisé’ jolts the listener back into Kakoma’s delirium, and ‘IOTA’ is most striking when Kakoma rejects traditional song structure; space-synth closer ‘Yuzu balade’ soars as gossamer strings and a dissonant vocal end the story on the pygmy chant she started with and invokes throughout. Lous and the Yakuza may not yet have the dizzying commercial pedigree of her French-speaking contemporaries, but with ‘IOTA’ she stakes her claim in a more rarefied space – on the vanguard of pop that is theatrical, transcendent and artful.
Words: Shahzaib Hussain