2018's Your Queen Is A Reptile felt like a capstone work for Sons of Kemet. Although it was only the group's third record, it marked such a sharp upward spike in the innovation and creativity that had garnered them so much attention when they first appeared on the UK jazz scene in 2011. In both concept and execution, Reptile felt so daring, so consistent, and so superlative, one would be forgiven for expecting its follow-up to show a sort of relaxing of the group's standards.
Black to the Future is not relaxed. It is, from the incandescent rage of its opening notes, an unyielding album fueled by a relentless righteousness. The insistent interplay between Hutchings' sax work (and, here, additional woodwinds) and Theon Cross' tuba-playing has long been the resonant hallmark for Sons of Kemet's music, and on Black to the Future, the two are locked in as tightly as ever; however, the material here spans a wider range of tones and textures, allowing the group's sound to expand considerably.
On "Let the Circle Be Unbroken," steel drums set the rhythmic scene and a deep tuba groove from Cross is countered by a soulful, mournful lead line by Hutchings, both of which evolve into a frenetic, ecstatic chorus by song's closing that clearly marks out that this is not the same song from your grandma's hymn book. Hutchings, Cross, and the rest of the Sons of Kemet core define the sound of most of the record, but there are also many guests who are deployed with maximum effectiveness. From Lianne La Havas and rapper/poet Kojey Radical turning "Hustle" into something truly genre-transcendent and Angel Bat Dawid and Moor Mother elevating the intensity of "Pick Up Your Burning Cross" into emotionally devastating territory. However, it's Joshua Idehen's unapologetically fiery poetry on the opening and closing tracks ("Field Negus" and "Black") that provides a thematic and vibrational bookend to this album.
The incandescent rage of Idehen's delivery in conjunction with the sonic electricity of Sons of Kemet's music intentionally denies the listener any sort of easy closure from the tight-wound, revolutionary intensity of the album. You are meant to leave Black to the Future feeling energized, angry, and ready for action, and the musical and philosophical approach here absolutely ensures that result. It's an album that demands—and deserves—your attention and engagement.