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SONS OF KEMET - Black To The Future

"Black is tired.
Black would like to make a statement:
Black is tired."


SONS OF KEMET - Black To The Future (orange vinyl 2LP) (2021)

I've said it before and I'll say it again: art thrives with urgency.

That's no brand-new wisdom at all, yet when I look at my record collection and weigh the albums of this millenium by the social importance of their message, it is strongly confirmed.
I'm not at all saying that there shouldn't be axe-wielding metal bands singing about dwarves, dragons and shit, but when it comes to true burning relevance of content, it's hands down undeniable that a lot of the artists standing out today are fighters for feminism, LGBTQ rights, gender and race equality.
(And if you're reading this and rolling your eyes about some white dude from rural Northern Germany being "woke", then you're clearly part of the problem(s) and I'm kindly suggesting that you'd better eff off.) 

Enter Sons Of Kemet!

Armed with saxophone / flute, tuba and two drumkits the London-based quartet around Shabaka Hutchings (also The Comet Is Coming) and Theon Cross continues its exploration of African diaspora and Black identity through a musical lense which melts together bebop jazz, funk, hip hop, Carribean and tribal music in the most infectious way imaginable.

On "Black To The Future" they are accompanied by more guests than before. Besides additional wood wind and brass players expecially the first half of the double album is informed by its rapping vocalists, among  them Moor Mother and returning partner from "Your Queen Is A Reptile" Joshua Idehen.

With vocals on almost every track the Sons are almost showing some kind of restraint on the first of the two discs, leaving the brightest spotlights for their contributors. Even though most of the lyrics are not by far as wordy as a feature album of the respective rapper would be, what is said has weight and makes the first half of "Black To The Future" feel like a hip hop album with an extremely vivid live instrumentation.

But then on side C comes "In Remembrance Of Those Fallen". And "Let The Circle Be Unbroken", "Envision Yourself Levitating" and "Throughout The Madness, Stay Strong", all longer tracks than on the first album half, all instrumental pieces, on which only through the combination of music and titles some of the most evocative and complex stories of the album are told.

It's here that Sons Of Kemet reach a level of timelessness that exchanges experiences with John Coltrane and Miles Davis, yet with a decidedly distinct stylistic approach.

It's sad and should make everyone of us angry that the struggles which fueled classic albums from over half a century ago still remain so frustratingly relevant today. It certainly saddens and angers Sons Of Kemet themselves.

Yet they still channel it through danceable positivity.

In a way Idehen describes the whole approach of the band in his final outcry "Black", which closes the double album, when he says:

"This black sorrow is dance
These black prayers is dance
This black struggle is dance
This black pain is dance
This black struggle is dance
And this black blaze is dance" 

Released by impulse! - and on which label would this belong more rightfully? - the orange double vinyl in a gatefold cover looks and sounds great all around. No nitpicking about anything from me.

And since "Your Queen" already was a masterpiece and "Black To The Future" as a whole finds an even better balance and rhythm and also improves on the compositional qualitiy, especially during the amazing second half, there doesn't need to be any discussion: of course this is one of the most important albums of the year, in contemporary jazz and beyond.

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