Review: The Comet Is Coming at SWX- a jazzy fusion for an intergalactic future


Given that it can certainly be interpreted as a name that alludes to a universal, foreboding doom, the chosen moniker of the London based trio holds a darkly attractive charm. Bringing a heady fusion of funk, jazz, rock and psychedelia, one imagines The Comet Is Coming’s intoxicating instrumentals – captivating, musically robust, euphoric – to be as defiant and immersive as you’d wish for any Saturday night party at the end of the world.

We’re not there just yet but, with a 1200 capacity crowd and boozers multiple levels deep at bar, there’s a palpable thirst for weekend escapism. Shabaka Hutchings on saxophone, Dan Leavers on keyboards/synth and drummer Max Hallett are all sporting sunglasses and remain largely mute during a set that feels like a cross between a rave and a jazz gig set in a time and galaxy far, far away. The saxophone virtuosity of Hutchings is immediately clear; at once sounding like stuttering, machine-gun fire, it spontaneously evolves into a screeching, apocalyptic wail.

With an apparently unlimited supply of air that makes once suspect that Hutchings may be possessed of a third lung, his saxophone punches impressively above the weight of Leavers and Hallett’s rhythm section, but is versatile enough to retreat subtly into his bandmates’ shadows when required. Without the presence of a bass player on stage, Leavers hunches intently over his keyboards and compensates with deep swampy tones and hedonistic rumbles. Obviously the assigned cheerleader, the shades and sweatbands on each wrist give the vague impression of a futuristic Richard Simmons; he regularly gestures to the crowd and at one point throws up the ‘rock’ hand sign. Hallett occasionally stands astride his kit and his masterful playing is clear evidence of the adroitness required in any percussionist faced with the demanding mistress of the jazz genre.

Within the potent, lyric-less blur of the evening, one manages to pick out a couple of song titles; ‘CODA’, from latest album Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam is a trancey and dance-y mantra of Leavers’ bass heavy oscillations and Hutchings spraying around bursts of sax as if he’s sonically laying waste to a field of armed antagonists. ‘Summon The Fire’, from 2019 sophomore outing Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery, features surging intergalactic keyboards and Hutchings’ brilliantly chirping squeals of sax.

Later in the set there are musical moments redolent of Nils Frahm, some stylings with a North African flavour, a pitter patter of keys resembling The Who’s ‘Won’t Get Fooled Again’, and Hutchings’ conjures an image of something approaching a Balearic sunrise with some beautiful, sun-kissed saxophone.  Also, SWX’s status as a nightclub seems fitting in the circumstances; with the high tempo tunes, the flashing lightshows and the spiralling, space themed background visuals, one could easily be at the 5am tail-end of a rave night.

Leavers, AKA Danalogue, finally breaks the silence when he thanks the crowd and reminisces about a show at The Canteen around 7 years ago. He then takes mercy upon reviewers and offers up the title for next song ‘Pyramid’. Evolving from Hallett’s rimshots and Leaver’s hedonic key swells, Hutchings’ initially sparse jabs run away to a big finish, a momentary break down to catch a breath, and an even bigger coda.

Support act Joshua Idehen then joins on stage and sticks one to the PM by labelling Rishi Sunak “the biggest wasteman in the UK.” Idehen alternates between microphone and megaphone, and brings the first vocals to the evening, during ‘Imminent’. “He don’t know his time is limited/can’t see that his end is imminent” he sings. It’s a fitting lyric should The Comet Is Coming ever reside over that party at the end of the world.

Scott Hammond