Learn How

We need your help in 2018

Support All About Jazz All About Jazz is looking for 1,000 backers to help fund our 2018 projects that directly support jazz. You can make this happen by purchasing ad space or by making a donation to our fund drive. In addition to completing every project (listed here), we'll also hide all Google ads and present exclusive content for a full year!


Sons of Kemet: Sons of Kemet: Burn

Phil Barnes By

Sign in to view read count
The first thing you notice about Shabaka Hutchings' latest project, Sons of Kemet, is the unexpectedly large feel to the recording's soundscape. Not only does it have the hallmarks of a warmer analogue past but the reverb is at times extraordinary, being akin to hearing the band play in an immense auditorium with twice as many musicians as the relatively paltry core quartet listed in the credits. Drummer and producer Sebastian Rochford explained in interview that this was achieved by passing the band's microphones through echo machines from which he did live improvised takes that were underlaid behind the original recordings. Rochford also passed Hutchings' clarinet through a tape machine that had an intermittent 'wobble' and replaced the pristine original version with the tape version. Whatever the technique the result is arresting—I'm not sure whether Rochford achieved his intention of the sound being that of the band playing with all of their ancestors around them but it sounds remarkable and adds greatly to the collection.

The effect of this expansive sound world is to emphasise the feeling of a collective endeavour that complements Hutchings' discussions of the principle of universal consciousness from Kemetic philosophy. As I understand it, the main idea is that the aim of our lives should be to raise our consciousness to empathise with others and musically this shows in the band emphasis on the overall sound and the mutual trust required to build it. In Hutchings' own words "So many small things are happening... Things move almost by themselves. I don't need to push it in any particular direction." Hutchings' personal sense of connection to this philosophy is further reinforced by his shared name with the last Nubian King to rule over Upper and Lower Egypt who also, apparently, wrote the ideological Kemetic principles that became the foundation of Greek philosophy and western thinking.

Philosophy aside, the album's foundation is the heavy rhythmic stew provided by the dual drums of Rochford and Tom Skinner, with Oren Marshall's tuba filling the place where you might otherwise have expected to find the bass. Marshall's contribution in particular adds to the unusual feel of the album—the tuba sometimes sounding as if distorted like an electric bass guitar, yet at the same time its earthy brass sound gives a hint of an early reggae feel. Of course this is no ska sing along, as is made abundantly clear by the album's closing cover of the Melodians "Rivers of Babylon." The piece is played not as the original's reggae ballad, but more like it were part of some strange ancient ritual and not a rewrite of a psalm. It really is a very very long way from both Kingston and Boney M.

If there is to be a reference point for this remarkable music, then perhaps the faster tracks bring to mind the spirit of post punk innovators Rip Rig & Panic or Pigbag. Certainly opener "All Will Surely Burn" or "Inner Babylon" would not sound out of place on Dr Heckle and Mister Jive, and serve as a reminder of a distant time when the leftfield and interesting could still infiltrate the pop charts. Like those bands Sons of Kemet sound like a fantastic live act—great to hear in the sort of small club where the walls sweat and the audience is free to dance. "Going Home"'s dub effects and "Song For Galeano"'s Augustus Pablo feel show a more explicit reggae influence but never to the extent that the album could comfortably be pigeon-holed.

And that, ultimately, is the great strength of the collection. The blend of influences and innovative production lift the collection onto a higher level beyond that of simply well played, innovative, danceable jazz. Props too should go to the Naim label for their ongoing dual commitment both to sonic excellence and young British jazz that has once more borne fruit in this excellent collection.

Track Listing: All Will Surely Burn; The Godfather; Inner Babylon; The Book of Disquiet; Going Home; Adonia's Lullaby; Song for Galeano; Beware; The Itis; Rivers of Babylon

Personnel: Shabaka Hutchings: Saxophone, Clarinet; Oren Marshall: Tuba; Tom Skinner: Drums; Seb Rochford: Drums; Dave Okumu: guitar (tracks 5 & 6).

Title: Sons of Kemet: Burn | Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: Naim Label


Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Strange Days - 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition Extended Analysis Strange Days - 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
by Doug Collette
Published: December 9, 2017
Read Trouble No More - The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981 Extended Analysis Trouble No More - The Bootleg Series Vol. 13 / 1979-1981
by Doug Collette
Published: November 19, 2017
Read Love, Gloom, Cash, Love Extended Analysis Love, Gloom, Cash, Love
by Patrick Burnette
Published: October 21, 2017
Read Motel Shot: Expanded Edition Extended Analysis Motel Shot: Expanded Edition
by Doug Collette
Published: July 16, 2017
Read Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th Anniversary Super Deluxe  Edition Extended Analysis Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band 50th...
by Doug Collette
Published: May 27, 2017
Read "Thelonious Monk: Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960" Extended Analysis Thelonious Monk: Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960
by Nenad Georgievski
Published: April 9, 2017
Read "Phish: St. Louis '93" Extended Analysis Phish: St. Louis '93
by Doug Collette
Published: April 1, 2017
Read "Strange Days - 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition" Extended Analysis Strange Days - 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
by Doug Collette
Published: December 9, 2017
Read "Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon" Extended Analysis Way Down Inside: Songs of Willie Dixon
by Doug Collette
Published: February 18, 2017
Read "The Doors' 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition" Extended Analysis The Doors' 50th Anniversary Deluxe Edition
by Doug Collette
Published: April 1, 2017
Read "Grateful Dead: Cornell '77" Extended Analysis Grateful Dead: Cornell '77
by Doug Collette
Published: May 6, 2017

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!