In 2018, saxophonist and clarinetist Shabaka Hutchings
' Sons of Kemet
became the first British band to be signed to the canonical US label Impulse. That partnership has now been augmented with the futuristic trio The Comet Is Coming
, in which Hutchings goes under the alias King Shabaka
. Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery
is the band's second, extraordinary, genre-melting album.
In the late 1950s, the New Yorker
's jazz critic Whitney Balliett coined the phrase "the sound of surprise" to describe the music he was covering. Quite what Balliett would have made of Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery
is anybody's guesshe was an elegant writer and he had good ears, but he was no particular friend of avant-garde or Afrofuturist jazz. His words, however, certainly apply to this album.
The Comet Is Coming was formed in London in 2013 after Hutchings, keyboard player Danalogue and drummer Betamax decided to explore their mutual love of Sun Ra
, Jimi Hendrix
, Can, Mahavishnu Orchestra
and the porous border between electropunk and industrial hip-hop. The bandnamed after a BBC Radiophonic Workshop recordingsigned to Britain's Leaf label, on which it released the EP Prophecy
(2015), debut album Channel The Spirits
(2016) and single Death To The Planet
A magical mystery tour for a new age, Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery
continues the boundary-battering trajectory of the band's earlier releases. There is nothing formulaic about the music but there are primary roles for each musician: Hutchings builds on the foundations laid down by earlier Impulse tenor saxophonists such as John Coltrane
, Archie Shepp
and Pharoah Sanders
; Danalogue creates the sort of textural backdrop and epic scale you might expect to hear on a first-rate modern sci-fi film soundtrack; Betamax keeps everything grounded and in the groove. On one track, "Blood Of The Past," the British performance poet Kate Tempest is added to the line-up. Tempest orates a freewheeling address that evokes the gone-but-not-forgotten spirits of William Blake, Ian Dury, Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking, space travellers all.
The Comet Is Coming's mission statement is appropriately far out. "The Comet is Coming [seeks] to destroy illusions," say the musicians. "It will manifest new realities, perceptions, levels of awareness and abilities to coexist. It is a musical expression forged in the deep mystery. It is the overcoming of fear, the embracing of chaos, the peripheral sight that we might summon the fire. Through the transcendent experience of music we reconnect with the energy of the Lifeforce in hope of manifesting higher realities in new constructs. Because the end is only really the beginning." So now you know.
But however you try to nail it down, Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep Mystery
is ultimately beyond category. As Duke Ellington
said, there are only two kinds of music, great music and not great music. This is great music, science fiction as sonic fact.