ARTicle Magazine

Lighting up the skies

Jim Pinckney · 24 May 2017

The Comet is Coming are an outfit blasting off at the peak of their powers.

The Comet is Coming

Image: Fabrice Bourgelle


The Comet is Coming, Saturday 10 June, Opera House, as part of the 2017 Wellington Jazz Festival, 7–11 June.

Crafting their own muscular distillation of the potent possibilities of a trio in full flight, The Comet Is Coming have enjoyed a dizzying ascent since forming four years ago.

It’s unlikely there were ever any thoughts of Mercury Prize nominations or rave reviews when ace saxophonist King Shabaka first jumped up, unannounced, to jam with Danalogue the Conqueror and Betamax Killer of psych synth’n’drums duo Soccer96, yet that is how it turned out. Under the tutelage of The Leaf Label, which has quietly cornered the finest of London's latest jazz breed, they stirred up considerable interest with their exploratory debut EP Prophecy before sending things stratospheric with the 12-track odyssey of 2016’s Channel the Spirits.

In The Comet is Coming’s world, where jazz may well still be the teacher and funk undoubtedly remains the preacher, there’s also a healthy congregation of other disciplines making their presence felt, from the mesmerising melodic rhythmic pulses of Afrobeat and kosmiche to rampant psychedelia, squelching electronics and the fractured thud of dank dubwise basement sessions. Space is a constant throughout, not only in their astro-galactic titles and themes but also more obliquely as an extra-compositional element alongside tape delay and myriad judiciously applied otherworldly effects.

As the band name suggests, this is no sedentary experience; noodlers and chin-strokers will undoubtedly get their boxes ticked – there’s no doubting they have the chops – but it’s those willing to cut a rug who will reap the full dividend. Danalogue the Conqueror and Betamax Killer work up a fierce rhythmic energy together, with live synth basslines that let off like a booming depth charge, rolling percussion and enough sonic tomfoolery to give the BBC Radiophonic Workshop a small fright. Drawing on the tenets of Afrofuturism, and the inspiration of fellow space-bound sonic travellers like Sun Ra and George Clinton, King Shabaka leaves little doubt as to why he is one of the most in-demand players in London’s profoundly fecund contemporary jazz scene. While he has made his mark on saxophone and clarinet with Melt Yourself Down and Sons of Kemet, as well as guesting alongside everyone from The Heliocentrics and Floating Points to Polar Bear, Shabaka’s work with The Comet is Coming has its own completely distinct vibe, which consistently takes them even further out to new unexplored territory.

Sharing a similar love of the solid groove and expansive adventurism at the fringes as our own Orchestra of Spheres, The Comet is Coming have the ability to flick on the head of a pin between swoon-inducing sparse melodics and a full-blooded skronky squall. Like the very best trios, they seem to manage to get much more out of the possibilities of their limited instrumentation than larger outfits with more grandiose plans.

This is a rare chance to witness an outfit blasting off at the peak of their powers, lighting up the skies on the back of the Mercury-nominated Channel the Spirits LP and their cheery 2017 Record Store Day release Death to the Planet.

The Comet is Coming, please stand back and marvel.

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Jim Pinckney is a broadcaster, DJ, music writer and head of the record label Round Trip Mars, whose artists include SJD. You can find more of his work at stinkyjim.com.

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