Gig review: The Comet Is Coming at Brudenell Social Club, Leeds

It takes a while to compute that John Burton (aka Leafcutter John) is approaching the task of entertaining a sold-out Brudenell armed with little more than two flashlights.

By Janne Oinonen
Sunday, 8th December 2019, 2:52 pm
The Comet Is Coming
The Comet Is Coming

What initially seems like a misplaced exercise in home electronics (the light beams turn out to activate some sort of a noise-generating reaction via a home-spun circuit board) soon blooms into a compelling set. Selections from this year’s album Yes! Come Parade with Us navigate a captivating course through scruffy electronica, enhanced by field recordings from the Northfolk coast, the energetic choreography involved with pointing the lights at the right spot on the circuit board and regular nods towards kosmische proto-electronica pioneers.

The evening’s headliners are also on a decidedly cosmic mission.

The Comet Is Coming’s two albums (2017’s Mercury-nominated Channel The Spirits and this year’s Trust In The Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery, which hovers near the top of many Best of 2019 lists) have been justifiably lauded for giving a robust kick up the backside to the ongoing jazz revival.

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Although the London-based trio is unmistably rooted in jazz (each of the three musicians gets an extended solo spot tonight), what really holds the band’s open-eared stew of abstract jazz skronk, angular post-punk energy, barbling analogue keyboards and overnight stays in various hotspots on the global rhythm music map is a keen interest in inner-space explorations. Back in the olden days, this would have been referred to as psychedelic; these days, the description ‘cosmic’ will do just as well.

The trio have correctly calculated that floating weightlessky amongst the stars for an hour is unlikely to get the crowd moving. Resultingly, the bulk of tonight’s energised set is dedicated to the more straightforwardly pounding elements of the band’s repertoire. With Shabaka Hutchings’ fierily screeching saxophone often assuming the role of a rhythm (or riff) instrument, the urgently pulsating likes of Summon The Fire soon send the crowd into the kind of beery delirium that’s bound to immediately squash anyone’s preconceptions of modern jazz-orientated music as a staidly respectful act of worshipping past masters of the genre.

This is first and foremost unashamedly physical and propulsive dance music, just like jazz used to be during its earliest days in the clubs of New Orleans. For all the set’s crackling excitement, an extensive dose of this high energy barrage can make you hope for a dollop more of the band’s reflective side; the dense layers of aural action can at times threaten to bury the nuances and hypnotic sense of space that make the Comet Is Coming’s albums so compelling. Judging by the enthusiastic audience reaction, it’s safe to say few gathered at the sold-out Brudenell tonight are bothered with such reservations.