The Comet Is Coming taking off at Hootananny Brixton

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shabaka-hutchings250Space: the final frontier. Whether it’s Sun Ra’s allegory for Afro-American emancipation or Dimension X’s launch pad for interplanetary B-movie skronk, the interplanetary realms have always been a fertile source of inspiration for forward-thinking jazz musicians.

The nascent trio Shabaka Hutchings, Danalogue and Betamax – they only got together last year – flirt with the same cosmological aesthetics, but forgo conceptual grandstanding to focus their devotion on the beat. Theirs is a retro-futurist blend of progressive synth and sound effects exhumed from the vaults of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop and the skyward imagination of David Durrah, buoyed by Space Invader rhythms and Hutchings’ punctuating sax, yapping into the galactic void like a celestial dolphin. It’s like Marcus Belgraves’ ‘Space Odyssey’ checking into the landing bay of Trans Am’s Futureworld.

But, if space is boundlessly three-dimensional, The Comet Is Coming exhibit far more restrictive parameters. Prolonged exposure to the troupe’s frenetic strategies feels akin to occupying a heavy gravity field while being repeatedly bashed about the bonce with the same slab of moon rock. Momentary and welcome diversion arrives with a tropical sax and synth standoff, evoking the verdant ambience of 1972 ecological sci-fi flick, Silent Running. Sadly, the sultry calm soon cedes, subtlety subjugated under a despotic, danceable stomp: Bruce Dern’s meditative gardens overrun by Wyndham’s wild triffids, his robot buddies cast adrift on a seemingly endless sci-fi pulse.

Still in the developmental phase, The Comet Is Coming would do well to intensify their probing of the outer regions, to introduce a little more space in their place, and avoid the blackened nebulae of funk fatigue.

– Spencer Grady