Sons of Kemet Black to the Future Impulse! Records
Saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings has spent the best part of the last decade using his improvised music as a powerful conduit for sociopolitical messaging. On 2020’s release with South African collective the Ancestors, We Are Sent Here By History, Hutchings channelled the spiritual jazz intuition of the likes of Pharoah Sanders and Archie Shepp to posit a musical riposte to the brutality of colonialism, while 2018’s Your Queen Is a Reptile with British group Sons of Kemet, traced a radically diverse alternative to the monarchy.
On Black to the Future, the fourth LP from Sons of Kemet, the political charge is similarly front-and-centre. We open with the spoken word of poet Joshua Idehen, railing against racism and “caucasity”, backed by Hutchings’ serpentine sax phrasing and the double-drumming of percussionists Edward Wakili-Hick and Tom Skinner. This atmospheric charge then transforms into the Afrobeat of Pick Up Your Burning Cross, featuring the metronomic thump of Theon Cross’ tuba and a welcome interlacing of Angel Bat Dawid’s horn and poet Moor Mother, who provides the track’s plaintive call to arms.
Black to the Future is a more expansive affair than previous Kemet records by virtue of these guests, adding textures to the quartet’s tightly-locked rhythms. D Double E applies his lightly-tripping flow to the dancehall feel of For the Culture, for instance, while Kojey Radical is in perfectly menacing form, growling alongside the sludgy groove of Hustle.
While the album lacks some of the intensity that makes the group’s live show so irresistible, it makes up for it with its open-ended lyricism, speaking through Hutchings’ horn as much as through the voices of the guests – always enacting the unstable form of becoming, rather than a contentment to simply be.