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The Comet Is Coming: Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam (Impulse!)

A review of the third full-length album from the London electro-jazz trio

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The Comet Is Coming: Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam (Impulse!)
The cover of Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam by The Comet Is Coming

Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam contains some of the most aggressive music that London electro-jazz trio The Comet Is Coming has ever purveyed. Betamax’s drum attack all but explodes with adrenaline, with his and synth man Danalogue’s layered rhythms equally ferocious. Meanwhile, Shabaka Hutchings’ tenor sax and flute have more abrasive tones and greater urgency than ever.

Intensity throttled up to 14, however, is about the only thing you’ll find on Comet’s third full-length that you won’t find—often done better—on their other two albums and three EPs. Perhaps Danalogue has increased his array of synthesizer voices, many of them—as on “Technicolour” or “Aftermath”—warbly ’80s throwbacks. (One suspects he’s been watching Netflix’s retro-horror series Stranger Things.) They make tracks like “Tokyo Nights” fun for this aging Gen Xer, evoking nostalgia for Vangelis and Tangerine Dream soundtracks, but putting those colors against animated dance beats and sax yelps is still just par for this course.

So is the sustained chill in the grooves of “Lucid Dreamer” and the closing “The Hammer.” They’re nice, but they’re crowded with sounds in a way that harshes the mellow. (For a much cleaner version of this vibe, turn back to “Birth of Creation” on their 2019 album Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery). Meanwhile, Hutchings’ saxophone lines are either heralding ennui from the gifted Brit or they’re dubbed/edited to the point of exhaustion. Either way, tracks like “Frequency of Feeling Expansion,” which on its face feels exploratory, are forced into loops and on-the-nose syncopations that wear out fast.

There is something to the album’s aggression, which renders “Code,” “Pyramids,” and “Angel of Darkness” more mosh pit than dancefloor. Truthfully, though, Comet’s 2015 debut EP Prophecy did in-your-face better too.

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Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.