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July 13, 2009 | by  | in Music |
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BLK JKS: Mystery EP


BLK JKS are a South African band whose sound encompasses noise, avant-rock, dub, afro-beat and progressive, to name a few. While they’ve been around since 2000, touring heavily throughout Africa and Europe, the 2009 release of their Mystery EP is their first batch of recorded material.

The EP opens with ‘Lakeside’, enticing the listener with soft washing guitars and a pulsing drumbeat that are soon joined by eerie wails and singer Linda Buthelezi’s crooning, despairing voice. This leads the song towards a rapid conclusion drenched in distortion that reaches higher and higher up the sonic scale, almost spiralling out of control before softly landing and fading away. This sets the tone for the entire EP, which continually sets out to entrance the listener, drawing them into BLK JKS’ chaotic world of crashing cymbals, masses of feedback and psychedelic guitar solos. Where this would become disorientating and too convoluted to follow, Tshepang’s strong, driving rhythmns and Molefi’s steady bass lines give the songs a strong foundation which the guitars can readily explore upon, creating walls of sound that arrest and captivate the listener.

BLK JKS strongly value their heritage, developing their style of music out of the Zulu tradition of Mbaqanga, with their odd time signatures drawn from tribal African percussive music and the lyrics often sung in both English and Zulu. ‘Mystery’ begins in English, proclaiming that “all the wise men around the world can’t figure out the answers”, as Linda sings about the mysteries of existence, before switching to chanting in Zulu through the cathartic breakdown, adding even more allure to the song’s thematic exploration. ‘Summertime’ utilises a shuffling beat to take the listener through waves of dub-like guitar and sombre, drawn-out vocals to a classical guitar solo that sprawls out over a minute, building out of a calming duet with the bass that soothes the listener, preparing them for the slower pace of finisher ‘It’s In Everything You’ll See’, a song that sounds like it could be straight off the soundtrack of an epic South African Western.

Straddling the balance between two major musical cultures in their home country, BLK JKS are a hugely talented band that create music that is intoxicating and exhilirating, and certainly leave the listener wanting more. So it is just as well that their debut LP After Robots, scheduled for release in August, comes so soon after this extremely promising EP.

Mystery EP
(Secretly Canadian)

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