New Release Tuesday: BLK JKS

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I, like many Americans, enjoy my fair share of international music. My tendencies keep me pointed towards countries like England, Sweden, and France that have a long history of bands making it big Stateside. So when a band from South Africa comes along, releases an EP that generates tons of buzz and lands on the radars of those hip to new music, it piques my interest. Johannesburg, South Africa's BLK JKS are the band in question, and the hype surrounding this band is absolutely legit. Their intricate weaving of African rhythmic sensibility with rock guitars blends perfectly over one of the most unique -- if not technically impressive -- albums of 2009.

Oh, and did I mention they will be playing Modified Arts this October?

BLK JKS play what they call "African rock and roll," a denotation of the fact that their nationality is African and their music tendencies rely on Nirvana and Radiohead, early rock influences for the four members of the band. They are not trying to create some new genre, yet African rock and roll best describes BLK JKS' unique sound -- a sound that a certain bunch of wimpy, sweater-clad Ivy Leaguers co-opted and made popular this past Fall/Winter.

The band wastes little time establishing why it is After Robots will sound unlike any indie/alternative rock released this year. The cascading, congo-like drums that kick off the lead track "Molalatadi" quickly give way to horns and Lindani Buthelezi's crafty vocal style. The song has a chanting backtrack throughout most of the song, the band's way of reminding you that they are, in fact, from Johannesburg -- not Williamsburg. It's a brilliant introduction to the band and to their refreshingly unique playing style.

The refrain of the next track, "Banna Ba Modino," doesn't appear to be sung in English, and it's at this point when the album becomes an endearing piece of afro-futuristic prog-rock, African-indie rock or whatever else falls worthy of categorization. There is a fresh, new element to BLK JKS' music that directly correlates to their undeniable African influences. Honestly, if a quartet of African dudes from Johannesburg tried to shape their sound to try and sound like an American rock band, there would be some serious head-scratching going on. Thankfully, BLK JKS combine what is best from their local heritage and what is more popular in today's American indie rock.

No track on the album encapsulates this marriage than the album's lead single "Lakeside," a haunting song featuring the dichotomy of Buthelezi's toned-down singing style during the chorus and a high-pitched, chanting chorus. As odd as it sounds, it all blends together perfectly and makes for one entrancing song -- if not an impressive one.

"Lakeside" sums up perfectly what makes After Robots such a strong album -- the marriage of different styles -- different cultures, even -- that fuse together to form a polished offering destined to be one of 2009's top albums.

After Robots is out today on Secretly Canadian. Check out BLK JKS' myspace at myspace.com/blkjks. The band's official website can be found at blkjks.com.

Eager to see BLK JKS perform live? Well don't fret because the African rockers will be playing Modified Arts on Wednesday, October 14. Ticket info can be found here

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