The Comet Is Coming
Identified as Betamax Killer, Danalogue the Conqueror, and King Shabaka -- aliases of drummer Maxwell Hallett, keyboardist Dan Leavers, and saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings -- the Comet Is Coming describe their sound as "apocalyptic space funk," consciously and purposefully melding jazz, funk, electronica, psychedelia, hip-hop, and improvisation. Named after a BBC Radiophonic Workshop recording, the boundary-shattering trio woodshedded for a few months and emerged fully formed on South London's fertile, highly collaborative, slipstream jazz scene and began recording almost immediately. Signed to Leaf, they issued the acclaimed EP Prophecy in 2015 and followed with their debut long-player Channel the Spirits in 2016; it was nominated for the Mercury Prize. The trio signed to Impulse Records two years later and released Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery in the winter of 2019. The London-based musicians had several outlets prior to their 2013 formation and were involved in a number of concurrent projects. The Comet Is Coming was formed that year after the duo Soccer96 -- Betamax Killer and Danalogue the Conqueror -- were playing a gig and spotted "a tall shadowy figure" hanging out near the stage with a saxophone in hand. They invited him up to play and delivered their first completely improvised set. Received enthusiastically by the audience, they decided to form the Comet Is Coming to explore their mutual love of Sun Ra, Jimi Hendrix, John and Alice Coltrane, Can, Mahavishnu Orchestra, techno, house, grime, and future-forward hip-hop. Besides Hallett and Leavers' Soccer96, Hutchings performed and recorded with Melt Yourself Down, Sons of Kemet, and other groups. Emboldened by jam sessions, the Comet Is Coming signed to the Leaf Label, where they issued Prophecy, an intensely rhythmic and animated EP of five mostly concise tracks, in November 2015. Their debut full-length, 2016's Channel the Spirits, further consolidated the band's reputation as a raucous, hard-hitting intergalactic groove machine with strong apocalyptic tendencies and was short-listed for Great Britain's Mercury Prize. After Sons of Kemet issued their charting Impulse! debut Your Queen Is a Reptile in 2018, the label also signed the Comet Is Coming. The future jazz outlaws re-entered the studio and emerged with their label debut, Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery, early the following year. According to the trio, it was "a 21st century take on spiritual jazz that is part Alice Coltrane, part Blade Runner," and featured a vocal performance from guest Kate Tempest on first single "Blood of the Past." They followed the set with a companion EP entitled The Afterlife in the fall.
© Andy Kellman /TiVo
© Andy Kellman /TiVo
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Jazz - Released March 15, 2019 | Impulse!
Saxophonist and clarinetist Shabaka Hutchings is a real connoisseur of sounds and fusions, and a true explorer. Each of his new musical expeditions pushes him further towards the top of today’s jazz scene… Born in London in 1984, he grew up under the Barbadian sun before moving back to England in 1999 where he joined the prestigious Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Here, he caught the attention of saxophonist Soweto Kinch and started hanging out with big names like Courtney Pine and Jerry Dammers from the Specials. In 2011, Shabaka launched Sons of Kemet, a surprising quartet featuring a tuba and two drums. A complete oddity, halfway between a marching band and a chamber orchestra, that blends jazz, Caribbean and African music, Egyptian influences, and flavours from New Orleans and Ethiopia. The aptly titled The Comet Is Coming – no relations to Sons Of Kemet – is another adaptation of jazz language. But does it still qualify as jazz? It doesn’t really matter. As a sort of electro-drip-fed Sun Ra of the third millennium, Shabaka Hutchings – who calls himself King Shabaka here – is supported by a duo composed of Danalogue on the keyboards and Betamax on drums and percussions. It’s a rather avant-garde programme set to overpowered percussive rhythmic and hypnotising brass improvisations. Sun Ra, as we said… It’s hard not to mention him who was idolised (or hated) for his lengthy compositions and mind-blowing, almost psychedelic performances as well as for the odd cosmic philosophy he preached. The Comet is Coming’s second album, Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery, remains profoundly attached to its time, in which Shabaka injects his philosophy with contemporary elements far removed from master Ra’s semantic like when he hands over the microphone to rapper/spoken-word performer Kate Tempest on Blood Of The Past. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
Jazz - Released September 27, 2019 | Impulse!
For the second time in 2019, England's spiritual sci-fi jazz trio the Comet Is Coming lay out their dystopian vision of earth with a provocative, hybrid evolutionary "new thing" music that melds electronica, soulful out-jazz, spidery funk, swampy dub, and prophetic poetry. Cut during the same sessions as Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery, it's not a collection of outtakes or even a sequel, but a holistic mirror image that comes from the same sphere of aesthetic investigation and font of inspiration. According to the band, "…These two records can be seen as companions that cannot exist without each other, like day and night, light and dark, creation and destruction. They were made together, at the same time, and have always been intended to be experienced together." At nearly eight minutes, "All That Matters Is the Moments" is one of the set's longest cuts. It's introduced by sweeping outer space electronics and Shabaka Hutchings' spiraling tenor sax playing a cosmic, spiritual blues solo before guest poet Joshua Idehen begins his prophetic dissemblage above Dan "Danalogue" Leavers' low-tuned, fuzzed-out, dubwise bassline and Max "Betamax” Hallett's Nyabinghi-style tom-tom and cymbal drumming. After Idehen delivers a spiky prediction amid the notion that what he's doing is "daydreaming of a world I won't live to see," he offers a glimmer of hope as he speaks of holding onto cherished memories of the friendships that came during times of loss and destruction. King Shabaka's tenor horn slices in and wails the blues amid phase-shifted atmospherics and layered electronic textures fusing future jazz and reggae. "The Softness of the Present" stands in pillowy contrast as its interlocking grooves of layered keyboards and rolling snare frame Hutchings' hypnotic, melodic, Nigerian-inspired melody. The set shifts again in the title track's amorphous darkness informed by atmospheric and dynamic hints of menace via a minimalist, hypnotic four-note sax line, sine-wave oscillations, synth and organ ostinatos, and doomy drumming (reminiscent of Martin Hannett's production on Joy Division's Closer). The two-part "Lifeforce" is introduced by beeps and space blips, wafting keyboard chord voicings, and rolling cymbals and snares. Hutchings practices circular breathing in a seemingly unending flurry of insistent yet melancholy notes that crisscross Albert Ayler, Roland Kirk, and John Coltrane during the first half. Its latter part is an insistent, funky, pulsing rhythmic stomp using all the same elements. Closer "The Seven Planetary Heavens" is a processional, its slow march punctuated by slow, sweeping lyricism in a pronounced series of changes that highlight tension and release via the rhythm section's canny interplay and wonky Danalogue electronics. It eventually breaks wide open, signaling that the end of one thing -- cultures, planets, stars, galaxies -- always gives birth to another through disruption and evolution. Suffice to say, it, like Afterlife as a whole, ends in a very different place from where it began, leaving the listener to wonder if it's the introduction to Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery, or a provocative new beginning altogether. © Thom Jurek /TiVo
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