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The BLK JKS, South African afro avant noise rock band. Childhood friends Linda and Mpumi grew up on the same block in Johannesburg’s East Rand, where they taught themselves guitar after Linda’s sister received one as a prize in church choir. Forming a band in 2003, early BLK JKS shows and recordings we remarkable for their stacks of guitar drone and head nodding beats, but it was with the addition of bassist Molefi and drummer Tsepang—both of Soweto—that BLK JKS began work with a fresh approach and plunged into its current universe of sound.
BASS CLEF “redefines the boundaries of Dubstep. His Dub-drenched analogue sound lies somewhere in between conventional Dubstep and Electronica. It is bursting with a raw, untamed energy that is fresh and exciting.” ATM MAGAZINE
“It takes the sonic palette, the menace and some of the rhythms of grime, and applies to them production techniques learnt from dub and abstract techno. What’s really great about it is that, although the bass could probably rupture an internal organ, the groove and the hooks are ultimately so irresistible, you’d still keep moving if it did.” INDEPENDANT ON SUNDAY
“FRIENDSHIP are utterly, and quite brilliantly deranged. Only a band with the loosest grip on behavioural norms cold open as song with a sunny, calypso guitar hook, only to pulverize it into submission seconds later with evil metal guitars and ominously monotonic Dalek-like chanting. Evil stuff.” ARTROCKER
More info on BLK JKS
“First championed by OMM last July, Blk Jks hail from South Africa but that’s little help in trying to pinpoint their sound. Indeed with bands like Vampire Weekend so keen on appropriating the polyrhythmic thunder of their African peers, it’s only fitting that these childhood friends should often sound like art rock sensations from Brooklyn.” ****Guardian
“A strong introduction to a band with unlimited potential.” – All Music Guide
“Of the dozens of new bands this year, BLK JKS may be the leading candidates for greatness.” – Drowned in Sound
“Electric Ladyland? If Jimi Hendrix were alive today…” – Guardian.co.uk
“With bands like Vampire Weekend so keen on appropriating the polyrhythmic thunder of their African peers, it’s only fitting that these childhood friends should often sound like art rock sensations from Brooklyn.” – Observer Music Monthly
“The EP brindles dub, psych-rock, ska and mbaqanga – South Africa’s Zulu blues tradition – in complex variegation… a joyful, densely abstruse sound.” – Plan B
“Unquestionably stylish but strictly singular of superstructure, it’s a great introduction.” – Rock Sound
“Pleasingly hard to pin down, there’s skittish percussion, womblike vocals and Cure bass, forming their own world.” – Teletext Planet Sound
“A mesmeric fusion of dub, classic rock and tribal beats.” – The Fly
“A unique, haunted post-rock sound with spectral flashes of an Africa that Vampire Weekend only dream of.” – The Skinny
“South African indie kids illuminate their dense, Afro-punk grunge with township mbaqanga.” – Time Out London
MORE INFO ON THE BAND:
BLK JKS defy description. With a wrecking crew rhythm section, debonair vocals, and guitar concoction of one part shred and two parts soul, BLK JKS shoot an African music sensibility through the tenets of rock. On one hand it is easy to politicize BLK JKS; as seen on the cover of Fader, here is a band that is instantly young, black and fly even as they reclaim styles that have been stolen, watered down, and regurgitated for generations. And yet to get caught up in anything but their sound is to sell this phenomenon short, because as musicians–as artists–BLK JKS simply cook.
The band’s fresh, forward rhythm, layered harmony and elliptical guitar vernacular reveal the urban Zulu blues of mbaqanga that is the center of BLK JKS songwriting. Teaching themselves guitar on the same block where they both grew up, childhood friends Linda and Mpumi formed the band in 2000, and early BLK JKS shows garnered attention for their stacks of guitar drone and head-nodding beats. After the band’s current lineup took shape with the addition of bassist Molefi and drummer Tshepang, both of Soweto, they embarked on a heavy touring schedule throughout South Africa that earned them a national following.
At the Electric Lady studio lock-in with producer Brandon Curtis of the Secret Machines that resulted in the Mystery EP, they started by considering specific tones, which they played nonstop for hours before recording. As songs began to take shape, material was saved and added to the cauldron of coolness and confusion that defines the EP. It opens with a retooled version of “Lakeside.” From the opening cardiac pulse its music goes further into enigmatic visions. In one telling, the song wonders what would happen if a UFO crashed in your town and no one believed what you witnessed. The eerie flashes in Linda’s lyrics and Tshepang’s refrain flow on into “Mystery”, a song originally inspired by a Carlos Garnett spiritual jazz classic. Linda ponders plainspoken about the meaning of existence before his bandmates usher in cyclones of sound and tribal voices decrying the state of affairs for a generation devoid of opportunity. The polyrhythmic beat in “Summertime” has the spirit of that season–but again something is not quite right as birds have fangs and the sun brings cancer, not suntans. As “Summertime” rises to the EP’s emotional apex, Linda cries out “whenshaleyi!”, pleading in Zulu for his taxi driver to stop. The Mystery EP simmers to a close with the township blues of “It’s In Every Thing You’ll See”, an intimate solo performance from Linda that leaves the listener unsettled, craving more vibrations from the first African music story of the 21st century.
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