Album Review: The Comet Is Coming – Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery [Impulse! Records; March 2019]

 The Comet Is Coming is a trio of jazz/psychedelic enthusiasts, one of whom is the increasingly recognised Shabaka Hutchings, who already leads two other groups (Sons of Kemet, Shabaka and the Ancestors). This group claim “to reconnect with the energy of the Lifeforce in the hope of manifesting higher realities in new constructs” and “to answer universal questions with universal truths”. Released on 15th March by the legendary jazz label Impulse! Records, has their latest LP Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery achieved any of this?

Maybe it’s too early to tell, however, such high expectations leave cynics like myself with a lot of ammunition. Undoubtedly inspired by Sun Ra, The Comet Is Coming depends on a saxophone (Hutchings), keys (Dan Leavers) and drums (Max Hallett), with the saxophone as the most human element with which the listener can most identify, and the synthesisers attempting to suspend us on a higher plane.

Although the album’s initial moments (“The End Is Really Just The Beginning” and “Birth Of Comet”) sound like the beginnings of a dark sci-fi/fantasy soundtrack set in the wilderness, their melancholy is quickly shaken off by “Summon The Fire”. The gritty sax and synth propel us into outer space, where we are soon joined by “Super Zodiac” and “Timewave Zero”. Both wear their traditional jazz influences more heavily on their sleeves, making them less immediate, but their climaxes are more satisfying and sustained as a result.

Amongst this tussle is the LP’s concrete let’s-get-real moment in “Blood of the Past”, that includes spoken word from award-winning poet Kate Tempest. As the band sets a misty backdrop, Tempest encourages us to live in the truth in the face of those in denial of the obstacles she spits – consumerism, bigotry, lack of empathy to name a few – as she contains her temper.

Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery ends with a well-deserved sigh of relief in “The Universe Wakes Up”; only the saxophone offers any tension as it floats atop a calm ambience. Initially, it doesn’t feel as deserved as it could be, since cosmic jazz tends not to fully lift the lid on and release bitterness. So, instead of thoroughly addressing (bitter) universal circumstances, the group leads us down a hedonistic path. But on face value, is that such a bad thing? Not if it isn’t self-indulgent and self-destructive, which is thankfully the case here.