Sons Of Kemet/Evil Usses
The Cube Cinema, Bristol
18th November 2015
Louder Than War’s Philip Allen reviews Sons Of Kemet’s sold out show at The Cube Cinema in Bristol.
Since their inception in 2011, Sons Of Kemet have developed into a mighty four piece via their incendiary live shows, using jazz as a platform to infuse influences such as Caribbean & African folk, which lead them to win the ‘Best Jazz Act’ at the 2013 MOBO Awards. The release of their debut, ‘Burn’ on the Naim Jazz Recording label that year, gained them massive critical acclaim. Their new album, ‘Lest We Forget What We Came Here To Do’ finds them upping the ante with Band-leader, composer and sax and clarinet don Shabaka Hutchings delving deep into his Caribbean lineage, and how their beliefs and experiences sit in comparison to today’s young men and women.
Tonight’s sold out show has John Singleton spinning some tunes in the bar as I enter to catch the last twenty minutes of the set from Bristol’s Evil Usses. The auditorium is packed out with all seats taken and people sitting up the stairs and in front of the stage. I squeeze myself in over the far side and watch in amazement as the Evil Usses do their deconstructive thang. There are elements of post-rock & jazz in their sound but ultimately it’s very accessible. They’re very clever in pulling apart the form, whilst producing something fun and melodic. Popular with the crowd, The Evil Usses are definitely one to experience if you get the chance.
With the room nicely warmed up, Sons Of Kemet take the stage next and what is apparent is that one of the bands two drummers isn’t here tonight. Seb Rochford, as I discovered the night after, is part of the touring David Lynch Revisited shows traveling the UK and Europe at the moment. I haven’t been able to find out who his replacement is but with fellow drummer, Tom Skinner, they perform brilliantly as the backbone of rhythmic support to the incredibly talented Shabaka Hutchings on alto-saxophone and Theon Cross on tuba.
Much of the set was pulled from their recently released second album with tracks like, ‘In Memory Of Samir Awad’ highlighting the lead qualities of Hutchings’s Saxophone lines. They lead the melody as if it were a vocal. Accessible and joyous, the melodies the band champion ring of the classic vocals you find in Jamaican reggae and dub. Their set began with the rimshot rhythms of, ‘In The Castle Of My Skin’ in which Hutchings and Cross assist the building of the rhythm with extra percussion. When both eventually bring in their brass instruments it becomes spine-tinglingly good. The smooth yet forceful nature of their instruments is a joy, with the deep bassier tones of the Tuba meshing with the saxophone in ways I have never heard before.
As the set progresses, the crowd begin to loosen up, rising from the seats (The Cube is primarily an independently run Cinema) moving to the front and sides in order to move, because that is the thing about Sons Of Kemet. You will find it next to impossible to not ‘shake your thang’ when you see them play live. It’s like Carnival day, if you’re not moved by the melodies and rhythms, you must be dead. It’s utterly infectious as more of the crowd release themselves to the front of the stage and even on it, to feel and integrate themselves. Older tunes such as, ‘Inner Babylon’ take the soul energy further as if reaching into your core and revealing something intrinsic and timeless. I just hope that next time I experience them live, it’s not in a seated venue with plenty of room to dance, as this is an essential element to the connection the band make with their audience. Epic stuff.
All words by Philip Allen. More work by Philip can be found in his Louder Than War archive.