The Comet Is Coming - Channel the Spirits

by Rob Taylor Rating:10 Release Date:2016-04-01

The enthusiastic infiltration of jazz into the consciousness of Generation Z’s free thinking musical audience continues with another oddball crossover record. The Comet is Coming's Channel the Spirits marries up the cosmology of Sun Ra, the free-range funk and groove of 1970s Miles Davis, and the sort of ‘mysteries of the underworld’ sounds I equate with Jean Michel Jarre or Kitaro.

They also forge a uniquely sharp, un-muted sound which can be too abrasive, pronounced in the way Kamasi Washington’s group was when I saw him live recently. More rock ‘n’ roll than jazz in the sound mix. I was very disappointed with Washington’s live mix. I couldn't distinguish the brass sounds, and the keyboard was often drowned out.

I make the latter point because I think it's an emerging characteristic of new world jazz fusion, that it’s competing with the huge sounds of the psychedelic rock scene, not with mainstream jazz recordings. The music is trying to win over new fans with ever increasing loudness and compression of sound. You know, tonight we’re gonna party like its 2099 or something. 

So, if a rethink of what constitutes innovative or ‘avant garde’  jazz in 2016 is required, I suppose The Comet is Coming put up a pretty coherent argument. ‘Star Furnace’ locks into an impressive electronic groove with, a keyboard/guitar rodeo in the middle section that imports the spirit of McLaren’s ‘Buffalo Girls’ and chucks a bit of Morricone experimentalism in for good measure.  The saxophone freak-out is top flight, and just goes to prove my point – when an instrument is selected for a singular lead-out, the music ascends in an impressive way, but when the clamor re-emerges, it's sensory overload. 

There are moments of inspired playing on Channel the Spirits, like the title track. It's a brilliant example of how skronking atonalism can be exciting. ‘Lightyears’ by contrast is an amalgam of space-rock, psychedelia and rap which doesn’t really go anywhere, but the internal chaos is nonetheless riveting. 

What Channel The Spirits represents then is unbridled creativity, worthwhile as a cause but a little overwrought in execution. 

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