Ramoba had mixed, mastered and produced the album by the end of 2019. Cape Town label Permanent Record pressed a limited run of 300 LPs. A performance was scheduled for SXSW and everything was set in motion to press reset. “It was going to be like Saturn’s return, because our international career began at SXSW in 2008.
“We thought, this is really happening. We finally have the album. We’re going to get on this flight to South by Southwest. We’re going to go pound the pavements again. Punk rock. Let’s do this! … And then we get to the US embassy and get handed the yellow notes that there’s this thing called Covid.”
Their live plans were put on hold. Mcata packed up his studio flat in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, and rushed to move to France with his then pregnant wife before the borders closed. The band worked out two record deals instead during lockdown, signing to international labels Glitterbeat and We Are Busy Bodies.
‘Raw and earthy’
In many ways, Abantu/Before Humans is a prequel to After Robots. Mcata says there are things on the album that could have been fixed, but “because of how it all went down, we wanted to keep some of those moments of vulnerability and imperfection”.
“If you listen to After Robots, you can taste the metal,” he says. In contrast, the sound on the new record is more natural, closer to how the band sounds in the studio without being over produced. “It was a gift to have been able to do it like this because I think what’s now on record is so much more urgent, raw and earthy.”
For Mcata, After Robots is an album that enters in the middle of a story. “It’s like a high-speed car chase and you’re just coming into consciousness, whereas with this one, we’re starting from pre-Big Bang. It’s just dust. It’s just the voice and the sound and feeling that you get from the uhadi. The return to the Earth … to the root, before humans.”