One That Nearly Got Away – Part 3 & Part 4
And so we come to the end of my brief round-up of nearly missed essential listens of 2019…
Even if you know nothing about the burgeoning and vibrant London nu-jazz scene and care less (wossamarrerwivyer ffs?!), you will be aware of the name Shabaka Hutchings. This driven saxophone wrangler seems to be involved in anything and everything currently “happening” in that scene down there in The Smoke. King Hutchings, as he is known here is currently in at least three bands, one of which is the cosmic apocalyptic groove trio The Comet Is Coming, on which we will focus our attention for the next few minutes, and to which we will cut several rugs into splendiferous dance-shapes like humans possessed by a grinning sax-blowing Shaman.
Seldom has music been as simply joyous as this fine racket, King Hutchings’ sax augmented by the lithe rhythms of Betamax, and the keyboards and electronic pizzazz of Danalogue, as we twist, turn, and shake, baby shake to the glorious tuneage offered by these finely corralled zeroes and ones. Is this “jazz”? I don’t hear you ask – well, I suppose it is, as that is Shabaka’s natural home, but really, who cares? Those of you prog fans frightened by the “J” word need to leave your preconceptions of fierce and formless noodling, or of finger-poppin’ smoooooth sounds right there in that handily placed stainless steel bucket by the door. Seriously, whatever pigeonhole this belongs in will have forgotten its restrictions and rules about a minute into the Sun Ra cosmic trippery of opener Because the End is Really the Beginning, which will put a spring in your synapses as you ponder the great mysteries. Pass that one to the left-hand side, if you will…
The album alternates spacious urban funk with all-encompassing cosmic pondering to create a rewarding shift through moods, enabled by Danalogue’s electronic base for Shabaka’s expansive reed work, all driven along by Betamax’s rhythmic pulse, and deft percussion. The soundstage is wide and welcoming, the production full and glorious, and that too is down to Danalogue and Betamax (I guess their names are Dan and Max!) knowing their way around recording software and a mixing desk.
The dancing shoes get their first outing on the booty-shaker that is Summon the Fire, a lively bass synth-driven confection that gets the joint jumping, King S blowing the repetitive melody riff with mighty gusto. Guest vocalist Kate Tempest raps serious intent over the following Blood of the Past, which takes a breather as it slows the tempo, although Shabaka is still blowing like his life depended on it. The insistent skank and lurch will bring the balcony down.
As a late middle-aged white bloke with all the unnoticed privilege that brings, obviously I cannot fully appreciate the righteous anger that emanates from the vocal recordings on these two releases, but I have enough intelligence to respectfully sympathise while dancing my boots off!
The power coming off these grooves would keep a football stadium lit up until the end of the decade, and the relentless energy of Super Zodiac will shake the cobwebs from your troubled psyche and oil those creaking knee joints, and you will find yourself boogieing around your listening space like a human bean a third your age. If this tune has no effect on you, I would advise checking for a pulse.
After this, the album slowly winds down to the concluding The Universe Wakes Up, a contemplative tone poem that leaves the listener fully satisfied and in a different space from where they began, a quite remarkable achievement. If you’re still reading, you will probably have to buy it now.
I am also writing about the companion EP The Afterlife here, as these two recordings are bound together, one is borne of the other, and they make perfect sense as a whole.
Babylon burn down
Our time has come
Our clock has run down”
Thus declaims Joshua Idehen, introducing All That Matters is the Moments, the opening track to companion EP The Afterlife, a song that becomes a dub-heavy righteous declamation, a litany of modern urban life and the soon come end of days, ending with a glorious sax solo from King Shabaka. Heavy stuff, but it will be impossible not to party while the world burns, if the soundtrack to the apocalypse is as downright funky as this. We may live under heavy manners, but live for the now, it’s the only way to avoid insanity.
Emitting a more settled vibe than its parent album, this EP wanders into deeper electronic territory, the thoroughly discombobulating keyboard chords in The Softness of the Present unlocking rusted neural pathways with the ease of aural WD-40. Smokin’…
A good word to sum up these two conjoined releases is “vital”. You will feel better simply by allowing the sonic majesty of these grooves to give you a good shaking.
Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery
01. Because the End is Really the Beginning (4:48)
02. Birth of Creation (5:04)
03. Summon the Fire (3:55)
04. Blood of the Past (feat. Kate Tempest) (8:14)
05. Super Zodiac (4:01)
06. Astral Flying (4:43)
07. Timewave Zero (5:20)
08. Unity (4:13)
09. The Universe Wakes Up (5:25)
Total Time – 45:43
01. All That Matters is the Moments (7:44)
02. The Softness of the Present (3:03)
03. The Afterlife (6:34)
04. Lifeforce, Part I (3:52)
05. Lifeforce, Part II (4:35)
06. The Seven Planetary Heavens (6:31)
Total Time – 32:21
Danalogue – Roland Juno-60, Roland SH-09, Roland Jupiter 4, Ensoniq EPS, Roland VP-330, Percussion
Betamax – Drums, Percussion, Pro Rhythm, Drum Fire drum machine, Simmons Clap, Ensoniq EPS
King Shabaka – Tenor saxophone, Bass clarinet
Kate Tempest – Vocals (Album)
Joshua Idehen – Vocals (EP)
Granny – Strings
The Comet is Coming & Vels Trio – Claps
Record Label: Impulse!
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 15th March 2019 (album) / 27th September 2019 (EP)