Sons of Kemet – Burn
(Naim naimcd195. CD Review by Chris Parker)
With a name referring to the hieroglyph associated with the designation of Ancient Egypt and a line-up comprising reeds (Shabaka Hutchings), tuba (Oren Marshall) and two drummers (Seb Rochford and Tom Skinner), Sons of Kemet might reasonably be expected to produce highly unusual, if not downright esoteric music, but there is a vitality and directness to the band’s rumbling, pleasantly galumphing sound that renders this debut album fresh and accessible from the off.
The band’s default setting is an infectiously enjoyable, rackety, tumbling hurtle, Hutchings’s various reeds spearheading the often anthemic, tellingly repetitive themes he has written for the quartet, with Marshall’s remarkably buoyant, dexterous whump providing ballast, while Rochford and Skinner pound out cross-rhythms and emphatic but consistently imaginative embellishments.
Recent immersion in the extraordinary variety of New Orleans music portrayed in such unusual depth in the TV drama series Treme may have over-sensitised me to Crescent City sources, but the shuffling power and subtle funkiness of Burn’s uptempo pieces bring the Louisiana city’s music irresistibly to mind; tracks such as ‘Inner Babylon’ and ‘The Itis’, like much NO music, take their inspiration from African rather than American roots, and there is an almost carnivalesque, celebratory quality in the band’s overall sound.
The album’s quieter moments (‘The Godfather’, dedicated to Ethiopian musician Mulatu Astatke, and ‘Song for Galeano’, written to celebrate the South American novelist Eduardo Galeano), too, point up the cultural importance of the African diaspora to Hutchings, and overall this is a deeply felt, intensely serious, yet often danceably joyous album from a band with a unique sound and approach.