The Comet Is Coming Seek Rapture in Rhythm on the Cosmic 'Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam'
Published Sep 22, 2022Since their debut, the Comet Is Coming has flipped the script on what a jazz trio can muster. Comprised of Shabaka Hutchings (sax and shakuhachi, an ancient Japanese and Chinese flute), Max Hallett (drums) and Dan Leavers (synths), their unique crossover style landed them on the Impulse! label, home to lodestar jazz musicians like Alice and John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Sun Ra (formerly), and Hutchings's other groups Sons of Kemet and Shabaka and the Ancestors. In the band's efforts to blast jazz into a psychedelic, funk-fuelled future, they've drawn common comparisons to fellow cosmic experimenters like Sun Ra, who brought jazz to wondrous new places. The kinship the Comet Is Coming shares with him lies not only in their ecstatic and stellar qualities — or the fact that Hutchings performed with Ra's Arkestra — but their continuous determination to journey further.
The band's versatility and vitality has brought them from the Jazz Festival circuit to being equally at home at Bonnaroo and with their own Tiny Desk and Boiler Room sets. While staying within their stylistic realm, their new album Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam sees the band finding new pockets to dwell in and galaxies to explore. One of the Comet Is Coming's most distinguishing aspects is the massiveness of their sound, and that comes through again on Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam — the crisp, deft drums, the bass crunch, the alien-firefly-weaving-through-the-sky sax, and the kaleidoscopic synths that fill in the rest. It's a mesmerizing and otherworldly style akin to what some of their contemporaries — like Anteloper and the UK's Moses Boyd and Theon Cross — have been doing, with an emphasis on hard funk and heady psych rock woven with propulsive rave and electro.
Hutchings once referred to something Sun Ra said that stuck with him regarding the power of myths — that those who've been subjugated often lose the ability to conceive of realities outside of what's been handed to them. Hutchings found creating myths for oneself — dissolving the line between reality and hyperreality — to be of immense importance, and anyone acquainted with his work will know the mythological structures that he crafts. This crusade translates into a sense of resistance, liberation and spirituality that comes through in the Comet Is Coming's cosmic majesty, with each new project helping to extend these notions of myth-building, bringing powerful hyperreality into reality and vice versa.
On Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam, this ethos is apparent again — its complexity is made accessible through the unit's explosive chemistry and seamless world-building, punctuated by abounding hooks and generally invigorating pacing. With many of the Comet Is Coming's more sweeping and uninhibited tracks harnessing dance music's raucous energy (see late-album barnburner "ATOMIC WAVE DANCE"), they're easy get lost in, but the trio excel at weaving themselves together in ways that showcase individual and collective strengths. Stomping opener "CODE" is a great example, as ricocheting sci-fi pulses make way for booming bass and snapping percussion until they're joined by wafts of glistening synths and stuttering sax, the band's gravity pulling listeners into its orbit. Or there's the waveform streams, swivelling swagger and thick, rippling bass of the techno-textured "PYRAMIDS," with Hutchings deploying fluttering patches as Hallett and Leavers lead the swing.
"FREQUENCY OF FEELING EXPANSION" feels more improvisatory with driving drums and gossamer synths shrouding the sax, its impassioned melodies wrapped in a whirlwind of sound. The dreamy and soulful "LUCID DREAMER" has Hutchings drawing out melancholic notes as keys glitter and sing like an angelic choir, while "TECHNICOLOUR" builds off skittering beats and a sly groove into an epic, shrieking beast. Taut bass gallops through the "AFTERMATH," which is given a mystical air by Hutchings's shakuhachi, and "MYSTIK" is the album's heavy-hitting closer that builds off dramatic drumming and vibrant, subterranean timbres into something colossal and cathartic. Reprising the band's beginnings, the lumbering "ANGEL OF DARKNESS" has an apocalyptic tone, with Hutchings sounding like he's trying to free his sax's soul over a Swans-like dirge. And yet, despite this mood, the track is wild and aflame with wails and squeals, bold attempts to keep devastation at bay.
On Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam, the Comet Is Coming continue their exploration of the wide wonders around us — the unknown, physical and metaphysical, light and darkness, life and death, and the connectedness and spirit laced between it all; broadening the scope, testing ideas and seeking freedom and rapture through rhythm and sound. (Impulse! Records )