The Comet Arrives: Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam | Exam

For the better part of a decade, it seemed like Shabaka Hutchings existed in three different places at once. Until recently, he balanced the work of three different groups, each of them controlling their own unique space in contemporary jazz. His recently retired Sons of Kemet was the most grounded, a protest-minded quartet from London playing funk-heavy Afro-Caribbean jazz, while Shabaka and the Ancestors – with an ensemble of South African musicians – traveled the spiritual realm. With The Comet Is Coming, a group balancing jazz improvisation with electronic elements, Hutchings and company transcend time and space, as if sending us transmissions from the future.

Albums like those of 2019 Trust in the life force of deep mystery revealed the curious duality inherent in the group, presenting them as both the most accessible and the most idiosyncratic of the group. Such is the nature of electronic music, or for that matter jazz – either can be about physical or metaphysical experience, and the British band explores the full spectrum within it. But where this album felt like landing on another planet, its follow-up Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam explores darker ground—more blade runner dystopian than initiating First Contact.

It’s not so much the methodology of The Comet Is Coming that has changed as the tone with which they apply it – the elements of laser-beam synths, ecstatic, urgent rhythms and hypnotically-powered saxophone remain the tools to their disposition to navigate this jungle of neon lights and smog. The opening sounds of the first track “CODE” even sound like sirens, as the band immediately pulls the listener into the action – its powerful bass tone sounds like the soundtrack of a full chase of suspense. There are more sensual moments (“Lucid Dreamer”), more ecstatic moments (“Technicolor”), and even those that feel like brief sprints through machine learning gauntlets. But rare is here the song which arrives as on a ray of natural light.

Whatever darkness the comet arrives seems to face Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam, they do a great job of navigating their way through it, not so much with care or caution, but with a willingness to face it with whatever they can muster. And so it is in the most incendiary and provocative moments – the darkly atmospheric fire music of “Angel of Darkness”, the Afrobeat synth arpeggios of “Aftermath”, the booming background of “Atomic Wave Dance” – that The Comet Is Coming reveals some of their most exciting work to date. The future they project or reflect here might not be as wonderful as it is intimidating and paranoid, but the confidence and power they project makes it a little less intimidating.

Label: Impulse!

Year: 2022

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the comet is coming hyper-dimensional expansion beam review
the comet is coming hyper-dimensional expansion beam review

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Jeff Terich

Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He’s been writing about music for 20 years and has been published by American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and a few others he’s forgotten about right now. He still never gets tired of it.

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