BLK JKS Prog Fest
Much of the BLK JKS’s press to date invokes afro-beat tinged comparisons to TV on the Radio, Bad Brains and Living Colour, though guitarist Mpumi Mcata brushes off the comparison game by encouraging “the reader to seek out and envision” rather than relying on, you know, critics.
The four-man group has erupted from South Africa as evangelists of any-influence-goes prog rock. Their latest, After Robots (Secretly Canadian), is a rousing yet challenging post-apartheid free-for-all. Such a frenetic melding of different styles, tempos, and instrumentations, though, can threaten to bury the central idea of a song.
“Funny you should say that,” Mcata said. “We used to have talks about a return to innocence… We hope people follow and see and feel this music as we do; music—and not its mathematical sum, which in any case is just guitars, vocals, bass, brass drums, and piano.”
D.C. residents will get their second chance to hear BLK JKS on Tuesday night at the Black Cat with openers Laughing Man. (After a coast-to-coast tour, BLK JKS will move on to Europe in support of After Robots.
“We are totally into D.C.,” Mcata said. “Really interesting and suprisingly mixed open communities even if it was kind of together but not together together, which is kind of the case in most places, it’s still beautiful to see people making an effort….re-imagining society in everyday mundanities; we’re looking forward to it.”
Prog-rock band Secret Machines frontman Brandon Curtis helped produced After Robots, and Mcata’s said of his contribution, “He was there to mediate—expedite the process so to speak. The brother really helped us get to the sounds we wanted…. He was a little bit of amazing.”
With so much going on, it must be difficult to reproduce After Robots onstage, no?
“The show is its own beast.”
The BLK JKS also project a positive image of post-apartheid South Africa, a role they believe artists have in interpreting the political and social events that transpired in their country.
“Oh it’s a major role…our part is to be ourselves; no preaching or politiking—at least not yet. [Laughs.] You know, most of the world is unaware that such youths walk the streets of Africa.”