Jazz fusion trio The Comet Is Coming brought a soundtrack for the end of the world to the Fleece on Thursday. Their pounding brand of highly rhythmic space funk saw a crowd split between electronic ravers and bearded jazz cats react in equally appreciative dancing.
The Comet Is Coming are a band that look like they’ve been plucked from different musical dimensions, and thrown together as some last ditch effort to save the world. Dan Leavers, Maxwell Hallett and Shabaka Hutchings (performing under the names Danalogue the Conqueror, King Shabaka and Betamax Killer) have played in various different outfits over the years. Dan and Maxwell operate Soccer96, their synth driven dance act, and Shabaka plays with jazz punk sextet Melt Yourself Down and jazz super group Sons Of Kemet. It’s the combination of these disparate backgrounds make The Comet Is Coming such an exciting act to see.
It’s the combination of these disparate backgrounds make The Comet Is Coming such an exciting act to see
Whilst Danalogue the Conqueror jumped up and down in front of his keyboard on one side of the stage, encouraging the crowd to do likewise, King Shabaka was on the other, lost in a jazz trance, rocking back and forward wailing on his tenor saxophone. Betamax Killer meanwhile, dressed in the grunge drummer attire of an oversized white T-shirt, plays everything from tribal afro beat rhythms to full blown metal.
Danalogue on his Roland keyboard brings growling bass lines and deep ethereal synth chords to the evening. Along with 8-bit chiptune melodies that sound like they’re from an ‘80s video game if they’d had been produced by noughties hip hop producers. Also puncturing their sound with electronic whizzes and sparky ‘pew pews’, Danalogue pushes the band beyond the jazz funk label, into a much stranger and alien territory. He also pumps up the crowd, throwing his hands into the air any moment he can, and at one point reminding everyone to vote in the election with the line ‘The Comet Is Coming…so vote Labour’.
Danalogue pushes the band beyond the jazz funk label, into a much stranger and alien territory
Betamax Killer’s drumming slots blends perfectly in with Dan’s key playing. It’s easy to spot that they’ve been playing together as a duo for years. Slightly obscured at the back of the stage, Max’s tight drumming moves between genres, often within the same song. At one point, transitioning between songs, he briefly stops in on a country-style swing rhythm, before seamlessly moving on to a hip hop bounce.
Flashes of an alternate score for Blade Runner come to mind as smoke fills the Fleece
The highlight though, has to be King Shabaka on the tenor saxophone. When Dan introduces the band halfway through the show, he gets a huge cheer. Which is understandable once you’ve listened to him play. His sax screams and wails in his hands like it contains a trapped soul. Sounding like a human voice one moment and an alien starter engine the next, Shabaka’s sound laces the evening in a gloriously ‘80s sci-fi funk. Helped by the lighting rig above their heads, which sends soft blue green and pink orbs jetting from left to right across the stage, as if there’s some message to decode – Close Encounters style. Flashes of an alternate score for Blade Runner come to mind as smoke fills the Fleece, and Shabaka climbs and slides down mournful sax scales like a kid in a playground. Picking three or four notes to repeat, sending them spinning around the room before moving up to a shrieking high note, held longer than you’d think possible, making me even keener to catch Shabaka playing with his other jazz act Sons Of Kemit.
Danalogue the Conqueror, King Shabaka and Betamax Killer create the perfect ‘80s inspired soundtrack for an apocalypse
Despite their difference in appearances, Danalogue the Conqueror, King Shabaka and Betamax Killer create the perfect ‘80s inspired soundtrack for an apocalypse. At the front, people were jumping, dancing and flinging arms into the air, and at the back people swayed in a funk-jazz trance. When it came to their final bow goodbye, it would be easy to believe that the trio play together through some kind of alien hive-mind. If you can, be sure to catch them at a handful of UK festivals this summer.
Words by Liam Mason