Home Read Albums Of The Week: BLK JKS | Abantu / Before Humans

Albums Of The Week: BLK JKS | Abantu / Before Humans

The African experimentalist make up for lost time on their long-overdue second LP.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:BLK JKS are a seminal force in the South African underground. After an extended hiatus, the Johannesburg foursome, championed by The Mars Volta and TV On The Radio (amongst many others), return with the groundbreaking new album  Abantu / Before Humans, a long-awaited ‘prequel’ to their 2009 debut full-length After Robots.

Mixing monster grooves with guitar-and-brass-driven Afro-rock that contains echoes of spiritual jazz, post-apocalyptic funk, renegade dub, kwaito and more, Abantu is a surreal journey of an album, beaming with laser-like vision and power — that in parts possesses an almost hauntingly vulnerable beauty. Guitarist Mpumelelo Mcata says: “There is a lot of important information stored and needing to be restored or preserved in this kind of narrow sonic crevice we are mining.”

It’s this commitment to cultural activism that encodes the musical DNA of Abantu / Before Humans. The band declare as much on the new album’s manifesto — we see on the vinyl cover art a text that reads: “A complete fully translated and transcribed Obsidian Rock Audio Anthology chronicling the ancient spiritual technologies and exploits of prehistoric, post-revolutionary afro bionics and sacred texts from The Great Book On Arcanum by Supernal 5th Dimension Bound 3rd Dynasty young Kushites from Azania.”

With Abantu / Before Humans, the band embrace a fiercely retro-futuristic sound: Afropunk. These brothers just want to jam. To say BLK JKS poured gas on the fire down below or lit the flames that created the soundtrack for the nascent Afropunk movement in their home country of South Africa especially… would not be too far off the mark. The band are often cited as key influences on artists like Spoek Mathambo, Nakhane, Petite Noir and Urban Village. It’s an influence that has spread further than just music too — they quietly influence young diasporadical visual artists, photographers, writers and filmmakers alike globally.”