Thursday, May 20th, 2021
Premiere: BLK JKS Share New Album ‘Abantu / Before Humans’ – Stream It Below
Out May 21st Via We Are Busy Bodies
May 20, 2021
By Caleb Campbell
Photography by Brett Rubin
South African art rock band BLK JKS made waves in the late 2000s as one of the most exciting and experimental bands coming out of Africa. Their debut album After Robots won effusive praise from rock royalty like Dave Grohl and established the band as fearless genre blurrers. Yet, their quick ascent was met with an equally quick disappearing act, with the band staying dormant over a large portion of the next decade.
Overcoming trial after trial, including the recorded album being stolen in 2018, the band forged on, crafting an essential successor to their debut. The result is Abantu/Before Humans, the band’s first record in over a decade. Listen to the record in full a day early below, premiering exclusively with Under the Radar.
The band describes their new record as a prequel to the narrative of After Robots. In their words, the record is “A complete fully translated and transcribed Obsidian Rock Audio Anthology chronicling the ancient spiritual technologies and exploits of prehistoric, post-revolutionary afro bionics and sacred texts from The Great Book On Arcanum by Supernal 5th Dimension Bound 3rd Dynasty young Kushites from Azania.”
Clearly a decade away from the spotlight has done nothing to dampen the band’s creative ambitions. Fortunately, they’ve advanced their sound while away from the spotlight and forged new connections, bringing on trumpet virtuoso Tebogo Seitei as a full band member, as well as including collaborations with Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré and Money Mark. Backed by the fiery trumpet compositions of Seitei, the band has once again envisioned an ambitious combination of styles from across the African Diaspora, bringing together jazz, funk, kwaito, renegade dub, and art rock. Few, if any, bands mine this intersection of styles as well as BLK JKS does here, offering a startling tribute to their musical roots and fascinating apocalyptic visions of the future.
Guitarist Mpumelelo Mcata says of the record, “This record has been a long time coming, and we are so proud of what we have accomplished. We hope this message from us to the world resonates.” He then offers a foreboding warning, saying, “There was a time before humans, and if we are not careful there will be a time after us as well.”
Check out the full record below, out May 21st via We Are Busy Bodies.
You can also read our 2009 “Best Of The Decade” interview with the band here.