In a sentence:
On the kinetic ‘Black To The Future’, Shabaka Hutchings and Sons Of Kemet sound more urgent and animated than ever before.
Sons Of Kemet are one of the most intriguing jazz bands right now. With a heavy dose of experimentation, and a finger on the pulse of society, their new album Black To The Future may be one of the most interesting jazz and spoken word albums since Gil Scott-Heron’s work, and serves as a scintillating follow-up to its Mercury-nominated predecessor Your Queen Is A Reptile.
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In terms of feeling new and old at the same time, much of the jazz sound that Sons Of Kemet deal in is classic yet original, and their social commentary is second to none. Opener ‘Field Negus’ warns that we are all being treated akin to slaves, in an almost Tarantino-esque projection of history. Also, Sons Of Kemet have never sounded so exciting or kinetic. Second track ‘Pick Up Your Burning Cross’ has an unforgettable upbeat sound that bounces around excitedly, before reaching fever point and breaking down into a sax solo that is blisteringly fun and powerful (and a woodwind section towards the end that quickens in pace as the track draws to a close).
With Black To The Future, Sons Of Kemet are probably the most in your face that they have ever sounded. There’s a sense of anger, even in the urgency of the instrumentals, which makes the tracks sound even more powerful and so deeply ingrained in a shared black experience. Even with tracks like ‘Think Of Home’, which uses deep, brass instruments to create a hauntingly beautiful bassline that rocks along to the beat, whilst bandleader Shabaka Hutchings’ saxophone sings wistfully against it, there is a sense of danger, of darkness and of anxiety which Sons Of Kemet portray beautifully.
This is without even mentioning the fantastic feature spots, littered across the album from both British and American artists. Moor Mother delivers haunting backing vocals on ‘Pick Up Your Burning Cross’, with his voice reaching outstandingly beautiful heights, and D Double E absolutely steals the limelight on ‘For The Culture’ where he sounds at ease over the tune. Although some of the vocals throughout the album are mixed very much to the back, they still sound exciting and more often than not improve whichever track they’re on.
Throughout Black To The Future, Sons Of Kemet play to their strengths by throwing everything into their performances and maximalising the mix. ‘In Remembrance Of Those Fallen’ features saxophone’s rising against the beat in both rhythm and volume, and ‘Let The Circle Be Unbroken’ features a fun brass section that rocks along to the beat effortlessly.
‘Envision Yourself Levitating’ is Black To The Future’s centrepiece. It starts with a build-up that builds up tension and anxiety with ease, and this tension continues throughout the track, never easing up or letting go. At eight-and-a-half minutes, it’s also the longest track on the album, and with the tension it builds up, it feels unforgettable.
Like any great book or film, Sons Of Kemet’s Black To The Future works best when it makes you sympathise with its characters just by making you feel emotions through what they’ve created. And in today’s climate, this feels more important than ever before. (8/10) (Harrison Kirby)
Listen to Black To The Future by Sons Of Kemet here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!
Tags: album, Black To The Future, Eddie Hick, Impulse!, review, Shabaka Hutchings, Sons Of Kemet, Theon Cross, Tom Skinner
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