As the spirit descended upon the South African band, BLK JKS (pronounced “Black Jacks”), again in the time following their 2009 full length release, After Robots, it brought forth messages of celebration and conveyed new adventures to be translated musically. The answer to that interpretation has come in the form of their latest release, a five song EP titled “ZOL!,” which will debut on Secretly Canadian just days before the start of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The collection of songs is deeply rooted in vast African culture and combines psychedelic guitar riffs with complex drum patterns and echoing vocals.
Throbbing drums and a filtered siren circulating in the background open up the record on the track titled “IIETYS.” The introduction almost seems like a continuation to the sirens and fixed commotion leaving the scene of the paramedics found in the story of one of their most notable songs, “Lakeside.” Distorted guitar layers support the core of the music and complement the reoccurring lyrical statement “It’s in everything you see” throughout the song. The wonder in the meaning of the lyrics exist on ZOL! and the sound is something you probably have not heard out of South African rock music. Opening the song “BOGOBE” is an African chant that transitions cleanly and with kinetic drum rhythms and cymbal flashes from Tshepang Ramoba in the answer to the first half of the song.
The upbeat title track to the record provides a tribal feel with distinct responding lyrics, “I can roll and shoot at the same time.” While listening to this track, I envisioned children dribbling soccer balls up and down the streets of Johannesburg and celebrations sprouting throughout the city. Following is a song titled, “Paradise”, that contains heavy melodies with high pitched lyrical flight. “Open your eyes, ‘cause that’s where the truth resides” sings Lindani Buthelezi behind a heavy foundation, then casually feeds into a chorus line, “I don’t want to die in the hands of a stranger tonight.” But stay on edge until the closing of the song which features a completely raw improvised explosion in the finale. “MZABALAZO” features deep chanting with many forms of lead vocals throughout the track. In a community where song is a universal form of expression and communication, BLK JKS succeed in shining light on that element of South African culture.
On June 10th, BLK JKS perform on the international stage with a slot at the opening ceremony concert for the World Cup. With ZOL! due to release on Tuesday, June 8th, the band will soon explore new lands and spread their distinct sound to fans that are open to their diverse blend of music.