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Lest We Forget What We Came Here to Do


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  • What made Sons of Kemet's 2013 album Burn so exciting was that it was a refreshing change from other releases that fell under the umbrella term of jazz, a supposedly diverse genre but all too often a depressingly formulaic sphere of music. Here was something different, and there was plenty to shout about. The most enjoyable elements of Burn have been brought to Lest We Forget What We Came Here to Do. It's clear that the band has extensively gigged the material; in particular the synergy between dual drummers Tom Skinner and Seb Rochford has reached levels attainable only by knowing each other's playing inside out. That takes a long time, and now both players have refined their relationship within the music, equally comfortable switching between anchoring the groove and decorating it with overlying polyrhythms. The space they leave for each other is especially noticeable in the agitated groove of "In the Castle of My Skin," Skinner's kick and snare propelling things along, Rochford peppering the beat with hi-hat and bell claves. Rochford also produced the album, and his clever mixing of the percussionists has resulted in them occupying different spaces, avoiding any lack of clarity that has often plagued attempts at having two drummers. Rochford's use of tape delay adds another dimension, subtle though it is. The faint flutter on the clarinet lines of "Breadfruit" coupled with the warm distortion on the percussion gives the album a dub-like feeling -- techniques already explored on their first album -- but here, studio effects are used more sparingly in conjunction with a raw live sound. The filtering and distortion and subsequent cut on "Afrofuturism" are especially effective. Hutchings' improvising is impressively varied throughout, from the visceral attacks that entice retaliations from the drummers or from tuba powerhouse Theon Cross on the opening of "Tiger" to the atmospheric wanderings over the brooding "Mo' Wiser," again the tape delay on the clarinet phrases lapping at their resolutions. There's no requirement for the robotic post-bop language found under the fingers of many a contemporary sax player; instead, the harmonically simple melodies serve as a platform for interaction rather than a complicated roadmap of changes to be navigated. The bandleader's upbringing in Barbados clearly influences the record, not least the raucous "Afrofuturism," which borrows bass and snare styles from Barbadian tuk bands. Postcolonial identity is further reflected on "In the Castle of My Skin," a title taken from George Lamming's 1953 novel, but the album's opener is perhaps the most poignant tribute -- a dedication to a Palestinian teen shot in the back by Israeli forces while attempting to flee. Lest We Forget... had a tough act to follow, and in many ways this album picks up where Burn left off. Similar themes are explored but with added focus, a heightened interdependence on each other as group improvisers that makes this record feel like a rich progression. Hopefully there's more to come -- the conviction of their collective sound, not to mention their popularity amongst fans not typically interested in jazz, suggests further exploration of this path could yield even more exciting results. ~ Simon Spreyer
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