BLK JKS explore wide range of sounds on full-length debut, 'After Robots'

At a time when roughly half of all indie-rock acts — the ones not busy churning out noisy, no-fi surf-pop singles — are looking to Africa for inspiration, it’s fitting a group like BLK JKS should come along.

The quartet hails from Johannesburg, South Africa, and it’s perhaps for this reason that it shares little in common with the Vampire Weekends and Dirty Projectors of the world. Whereas those and other Anglo bands tend to play up the buoyancy of African music, using springy guitar as a novel stand-in for the usual indie fuzz and jangle, BLK JKS explores a wider range of sonic possibilities.

The music on “After Robots” (Secretly Canadian), its full-length debut, is big, bad, and relentlessly twisty — a raging river of Fela Kuti horns, early-Cure guitar drone, revelatory group shouts and rhythmic free-for-alls.

Truly, this is a band with no default setting: “Banna Ba Modimo” is windy and intricate enough to qualify as progressive rock, while “Skeleton” serves up spaced-out dub reggae. On the piano ballad “Standby,” singer Lindani Buthelezi moans like Morrissey, his words melting into one another.

Highlight and leadoff track “Molatlatladi,” meanwhile, is a full-on epic, its clattering percussion and stampeding brass conjuring images of red skies and swirling desert winds. Fortunately, what sounds like the end of the world is really just the start of something new.

— Text by Kenneth Partridge, photo by Demonica Orozco

Molalatladi mp3

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