When BLK JKS formed almost a decade ago, the band took a lot of flak in its native Johannesburg. Rock 'n' roll was viewed as the music of the antagonistic West, and BLK JKS was unabashedly rock. Since then, however, the band has become a regional phenomenon, inspiring a cosmopolitan youth movement while expanding the parameters of South African pop. Now, as its debut EP reaches the States, it's our turn to grapple with its confounding sound.
If there's a tradition BLK JKS upholds, it's the small overlap bridging prog and punk—from Can and Berlin-era David Bowie to TV on the Radio. But its sound is more like live jazz than studio-bound art-rock, and it's defined by the members' interplay. So, instead of manicured sonics, BLK JKS gives us "Lakeside," the EP's opener. The song is simultaneously loose and focused, with a sunny kwaito chorus gushing ferociously from its psych-goth verse. And though the title track imagines an even more warped Axis: Bold as Love, the deluge of effects emphasizes the musicians' lunatic jamming.
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By the time closing track "It's in Every Thing You'll See" passes into silence, one of the Western media's talking points for the band has been sufficiently junked: BLK JKS doesn't, in fact, represent rock's globalization. More accurately, the band is the herald of its next generation.