During times of political turmoil and extreme social anxieties, art and music offer a cognitive distraction from the fears, pressures and narrative reality. Life imitates art, and art imitates life and at a time where a populace sentiment is coursing through political rhetoric and politicians are relying on generic language in an duplicitous effort to “speak the common man’s tongue”, art and especially music is favouring a generic approach, relying on common tropes in order to neatly conform to a specific artistic niche. But in London, at the centre of the Brexit chaos, a new musical scene has emerged, fusing disparate elements in a modern musical language, based on the foundations of an old experimental format. It’s Jazz 4.0, yet another new age for the genre emboldened by a new generation fusing elements of Urban, Electronic and Funk music in a miasmic whirlpool of sounds, centred around a few core groups residing in London.
Gilles Peterson’s “We out Here” concept played a pivotal role last year in bringing bands like Ezra Collective and Moses Boyd to the fore through the compilation and the festival of the same name over the course of the last two years, revealing an exuberant and exhilarating group of musicians that like Miles Davis and Sun Ra before them are re-inventing and re-contextualising the idea of Jazz for our generation. A key figure amongst these musicians is saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings, who has performed with the likes of Floating Points, Sun Ra Arkestra and Mulatu Astatke and has formed groups like Melt Yourself Down, Sons of Kemet and The Comet is Coming – the latter of which sees him joining forces again with Betamax and Danalogue for their latest LP, “Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery.”
Their second LP finds them orbiting celestial bodies, astrally projecting their sound through the cosmos in search of corporeal desires through exotic sonic landscapes . Hutchings’ unique piercing staccato bursts on saxophone and clarinet bounce between the contrapuntal percussive arrangements and cosmic key-work from his bandmates, as they travel through some of the outer dimensions of elements of progressive Rock, Funk, Jazz and more contemporary musical touchstones like Grime and Hip Hop. The Comet is Coming never stray into self-indulgent improvised movements with song structures and arrangements favouring a succinct and concise form that remains accessible. Although there’s a psychedelic pursuit behind their music, they forego the extreme for a more lucid trip through music.
There’s an unavoidable immediacy to their sound on the “Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery,” something that has been a prominent trademark in this era of Jazz, and that The Comet is Coming has been harnessing since 2016’s Final Eclipse. You could find yourself listening intently or dancing with wild abandon through this entire record as the group streak by in a flurry of bold sonic movements through the ten songs that make up the LP. The band bring structure, form and a perfunctory dimension to what is usually a formless musical language, and there’s a sense of dissent in their work, not just in the literal form like on the track “Blood of the Past,” but also in the way they completely discard classic tropes, or simply re-contextualise them. What was a monologue, stabbing synthesiser becomes a trembling sax; what is usually a distorted guitar is a cymbal quivering in the distance; and what is usually a abstract serenade, is a monotonous soliloquy.
“Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery” shows that this new era for London Jazz is more than just the sum of a single compilation but that it’s here to stay and it’s producing music and musicians that will and is making an indelible mark on modern music history. Bands like The Comet is Coming are reinterpreting and dismantling traditions while ushering in a new era of music to counterpoint the banal, and “Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery” is already a significant highlight.