Heaven – 24th May
Shabaka Hutchings is never far from his saxophone. Since forming his group Sons of Kemet in 2011, he has gone on to play with cosmic jazz legends the Sun Ra Arkestra, Courtney Pine, Ethiojazz pioneers Mulatu Astatke and the Heliocentrics, as well as with his solo outfit Shabaka and the Ancestors.
As if he has time for more projects, Hutchings is also a member of the trio Comet is Coming, along with drummer Max Hallett and keyboardist Dan Leavers. Releasing their first EP Neon Baby in 2015, the band’s debut record Channel the Spirits was nominated for the Mercury Prize last year. Channelling the cosmic influences of Sun Ra, expressed through Leavers’ heavy use of synth effects, the group has built a following based around their high energy live performances.
Promoting their latest EP release, the ominously titled Death to the Planet, the trio took to the stage of a sold-out Heaven. Opening with a lyrical solo from Hutchings which echoed with reverb across the venue’s archspace, it wasn’t long before Leavers, resplendent in a silken hoodie, thrust himself into our ears with a heavy synth line. Hallett soon followed loosely, favouring the wash of cymbals over a kick-snare groove, yet maintaining structure beneath Leavers and Hutchings’ increasingly free-form improvisations.
Leading into ‘Journey Through the Asteroid Belt’, taken from Channel the Spirits, the group injected their recorded material with a live energy and speed that immediately had the crowd dancing. Hutchings’ solo soared with its deft use of delay effects and rhythmic gestures that gave counterpoint to Hallett’s half-time groove. At times throughout the show though, Leavers’ keyboard effects were pushed to excess, traversing everything from game sounds to the squelch of acid house, bass-weight techno and buzzing drones, overriding Hutchings and Hallett.
On downtempo numbers like ‘Start Running’ from the latest EP, Comet showed their potential when playing as a unit; Hutchings’ breathy undertones riffing off of the low-end of Leavers’ synth and Hallett’s percussive insistence driving the composition to a spiralling crescendo. Ultimately, cutting through the bombast, Comet Is Coming are a formidable live force, possessing the rhythmic intensity of a trance-state and, when applied lightly, inventive electronics that go beyond novelty.
Photos by Jose Ramon Caamaño.