The Comet is Coming’s varied layers lead to a stellar crescendo


The history of jazz is filled with forward-thinking artists that pushed the envelope of music. One aspect of jazz that stands the test of time is its ability to define a tone. Envision a swanky high-class, smoke-filled bar. There’s instantly a kind of jazz that pops into mind. The measured upright bass and sultry drums are accented by a calming piano.

There’s a style of jazz for every mood. One of the more outlandish forms of jazz comes from those that look toward the fantastical and futuristic to inspire their sounds. Artists like Herbie Hancock with Head Hunters and Return to Forever incorporated synths, strange sounds, and off-beat rhythms to create something wholly different.

A rich history of afro-futurist jazz also spawns from this love of an imagined distant future. Sun Ra and his contemporaries paved the way for an entire generation of Black artists from The Comet is Coming to Janelle Monae.

The Comet is Coming, a London-based jazz band, is a direct descendent of the sound pioneered by legends like Hancock and Sun Ra. A group that combines influences from jazz, rock, electronic, and psychedelic music into one cosmic package.

The Comet is Coming was formed by prolific saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, keyboardist Dan Leavers, and drummer Max Hallet. Each artist takes on a pseudonym for this project. King Shabaka, Danalogue, and Betamax form their alternate identities, further adding to the aesthetic.

One glance at the presentation of the band’s new record Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam immediately alerts the listener they’re in for a journey. The Comet is Coming has leaned further into the themes of space. Their otherworldly presentation is reminiscent of the current wave of forward-thinking jazz artists dominating the space like Kamasi Washington and Christian Scott.

Hutchings’ own catalog is filled with projects that adopt an afro-futurist sound through his own group Sons of Kemet and work with The Sun Ra Arkestra. The Comet is Coming shifts more into mainstream science fiction with the ideas of deep space with notable spirituality for the grand scale of the universe.

The Comet is Coming’s influences come from across the globe; forming a unique playground for the group to play in. There’s a distinct jazz-fusion flavor with wild improvisational moments and quirky synths throughout the album.

The London-based trio also takes inspiration from the city’s electronic music history. There are booming electronic sounds and danceable beats that could easily have been found in an alleyway bar in Soho. Rock, hip-hop, and classic jazz are also heavy influences on The Comet is Coming’s new record.


Hutchings’ sax playing is excellent. It’s miraculous there are so many talented saxophone players lighting up the jazz scene today. Hutchings’ diverse style allows him to show off his virtuosity, dominating the track with explosive, wailing playing. His staccato playing almost sings throughout the record, complementing the groove laid by the rhythm section.

The opening track “Code” is an encapsulation of everything that makes The Comet is Coming special. It opens with a grimy distorted synth line that feels straight out of a nighttime alleyway club. Then Hutchings comes in with a reverb-soaked saxophone that flutters in and out of the track. Every few bars a new layer is added. First, it’s the addition of a breathy synth that coats the track, followed by a tough breakdown that leads into a stellar crescendo.

This is followed by the groovy “Technicolour” marked by some tight drum work from Hallett and some more great saxophone work by Hutchings. In this track, the saxophone rides the rhythm perfectly, sounding like a great rapper who’s in the pocket. Within the first seven minutes of Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam it’s clear this is something to pay attention to.

“Angel of Darkness” is the heaviest track on the album with a sense of dread that calls back to Black Sabbath, further emphasizing the band’s rock roots. A creeping rhythm marches along the track accented by distorted, chunky synths. Hutchings’ playing is chaotic and loud; complementing Hallett’s increasingly aggressive drumming. It’s one of the best moments on the record and is followed by another highlight “Aftermath.” Coming off one of the noisiest tracks on the album, “Aftermath,” is a nighttime drive through a neon-soaked city. Flutes and shimmering synths dot the calming and interesting song.

The Comet is Coming has dropped a strong, 43-minute record that throws many different sounds and moods at the listener. It’s a mix of exciting instrumentation combined with solid thematic composition. The Comet is Coming is a group to watch over the next decade and deserves its place among the new wave of wonderful jazz artists.

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