BLK JKS – After Robots

January 01, 1970

(Secretly
Canadian)

 

www.secretlycanadian.com

 

In
today’s clotted alt-rock market, a distinctive style is essential. BLK JKS’s
dubby debut EP, Mystery, suggested
that the South African quartet — though basically unknown abroad a year ago —
had already met that requirement. Given the broader expanse of a full album,
however, the band sounds more tentative. Yet if the new After Robots isn’t as cohesive as its precursor, it’s every bit as
exciting.

 

Produced
in Indiana by Secret Machines’s Brandon
Curtis, the album shares one track with Mystery: “Lakeside,” which
shows just what the Johannesburg
group can do. The song begins spare and spacey, with a sense of vastness. Then
a multi-vocal melody floats above the instruments, periodically accented by an
ascending guitar figure that eventually leads to a dual-guitar rave-up. “Lakeside” is eccentric, but impeccably constructed.

 

After Robots opens with
“Molalatladi” and “Banna Ba Modimo,” which employ the
Hypnotic Brass Section. Both are more aggressive than anything on the EP, yet
are as different as they are alike. While the former’s chanting suggests
traditional African music, the latter interjects snippets of cocktail-lounge
jazz. The meandering, deep-focus “Skeleton” continues the band’s dub
experiments, but on “Standby” and the unexpectedly pretty
“Tselane,” the band prunes the reverb so that Lindani Buthelezi (who
alternates among English, Zulu, and Xhosa) can be heard clearly. It turns out
that BLK JKS can be lucid as well as misty, which bodes well for their already
fairly brilliant career.

 

Standout Tracks: “Lakeside,” “Molalatladi,”
“Tselane” MARK JENKINS

 

 

 

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