REVIEW: The Comet Is Coming at The Haunt in Brighton

The Comet is Coming
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REVIEW: The Comet Is Coming
(The Haunt, Brighton. 3 April 2019. Review by AJ Dehany)

The Comet Is Coming bring a cosmic groove music that exemplifies the galactic spiral arm of the nu-millennial jazz sound: a channeling of trust, life and mystery. The synth-sax-drums trio of Danalogue, Betamax and King Shabaka recently signed to Impulse! - “the house that Trane built” - and their touchstones include both John and Alice Coltrane, with a conscious and consciousness-raising appeal to universal connection.

Smashing their way through a national tour, they crashed down in the intimate-ish rock venue The Haunt in Brighton, the site of their first gig. A friend who saw them at SAGE Gateshead a few days before warned me ahead of the Brighton gig, “Please take your ear plugs, they are SERIOUSLY loud!!”

The 90-minute set included cuts from their Mercury-nominated 2016 debut Channel The Spirits, two adjoining EPs Prophecy and Death to the Planet and their acclaimed new album Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery. The deep dive and astral flying of the live set mirrored the patient pacing of the album. Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery measures out the bangers to privilege a cogent sequence and cohesive overall shape that leaves you wanting more.

The sound is rich, expansive and electronically enhanced. Shabaka’s tenor sax goes through a Memory Man box, and Danalogue runs the iconic Roland Juno through a shelf of pedals. Because The End Is Really The Beginning shows you why they get some Bladerunner/Vangelis comparisons, with its uncluttered slow synth scene-setting and judiciously sexy sax. The single Summon The Fire is one of their big tunes, an absolute beast: template Shabaka Hutchings with characteristic double-tongued riffing and irresistible rhythmic compulsion.

At this stage, Shabaka’s playing owes as much to the complex flows of rappers and MCs as it does to the licks and runs of jazz playing. In his practice he learns the rhythms of the speech first as a monotone before going on to vary the notes expressively. This has resulted in a diverse saxophone prosody that has the articulation and force of spoken utterance mixed with the harmonic language of jazz. They say great musicians speak through their instrument; this is the apotheosis.

The trio has refined a mixture of spellbinding cosmic texture and grinding party music, a seamless unity of cosmic and spiritual energies and dark crunk. It’s the most appealing parts of two groups situated on either side of this one. A bit more serious and committed than Danalogue and Betamax’s duo Soccer96, where the miasma of cosmic trance anthems is at times self-consciously nostalgic. A bit more unabashedly fun than Shabaka’s four-piece Sons of Kemet where the political charge of the music and its dialogue with Caribbean and African inheritances informs but can also temper the party vibe.

Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery is in several ways a more satisfying album than last year’s epochal Sons of Kemet album Your Queen Is A Reptile. Each member of the trio feels more like an equal. The electronic sound fills out a wide stereo image and punches out of the speakers to underline the power of Shabaka Hutchings’ saxophone. Playing live they aren’t as earpluggingly loud as all that, but for a force of such intensity and heaviness they have an appealing lightness of touch, a transcending brightness.

AJ Dehany is based in London and writes independently about music, art and stuff. ajdehany.co.uk

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