4 September 2016

The Comet Is Coming - Channel The Spirit

Image result for channel the spirits by the comet is coming

I realise that I haven't blogged for at least six months due to family commitments so I hope you can forgive for being just a shade rusty with my appraisal skills, so onwards. This album that the Editor Eddie has gifted me with is one of the twelve Mercury Prize nominees, an electronic act they call themselves The Comet Is Coming. Time to crack open the old Wikipedia, Facebook and Amazon pages as our blogs these days now seem to appeal to a much more global audience since the last time I was here.

First, the act which as an entity were formed as recently as 2013. They go by pseudonyms such as Betamax Killer, King Shabaka and Danalogue the Conqueror, curious names but the objective for attention is made. The alter ego thing is nothing new, so what is their musical message to the keen listener? This is what I found on their website,
The Comet brings radical change.
The Comet brings fragility
To what seems stable,
Lays waste to human ideologies and prejudices,
Makes a mockery of ephemeral power hierarchies.
The destruction will be uncontrollable, swift and complete.
The fall of a thousand suns.
The sky will fill with black ash from global fires that will block out the sun.
Out of the destruction, will come creation.
Restructuring of the fabric of life, DNA recoding and psychological reorganisation.
United People of the New Age.
New harmonies, new ideas, new awareness, new communities, new togetherness, new evolution.

Image result for the comet is coming

At first listen, it appears an acid trip was the staple diet at one point. Seemingly there is a spiritual theme recurring in this mixture of jazz, funk and electronica. They claim to be the heirs to Sun Ra whom as far as I understand was some Alabamian musician who fused jazz with space rock with equally unearthly claims, for example his birthplace being of Saturn. However, almost immediately I do get the scenes they set which centre round 1950s B-movies, outer space and Sci-fi from an Orson Welles narration for example.

One slight giant leap forwards for mankind into the future, 3 years to be precise and they've come up with a debut album shortlisted for Mercury. Channel The Spirit to me isn't quite the concept piece I was kind of expecting to be despite the recurring cosmic theme but certainly there are plenty of promising snippets. First is two minute overture The Prophecy, minimal organic percussion from Betamax fused with some bleeps and electronic hooks akin to Keith Emerson and Rick Wright that Danalogue has come up with. Pink Floyd fans will certainly lend a keen ear minus the rock. Following that is Space Carnival, where the whole mix consists of more prominent drumming and saxophone hooks running throughout the three and a half minutes. It's like Daft Punk's Robot Rock, only 1,500 times better, less minimal and certainly more enticing.

Next it's Journey Through The Asteroid Belt. King Shabaka's original sax hook is the dominant force in this one, backed by what feels like Danalogue's interpretations of Jean Michel Jarre's Moon Machine and Oxygene. It's a busy little number and more than enough to hold my attention. Continuing with the space theme is the brief Nano, very Jeff Wayne, the only omission is the Richard Burton narration. Now on to track 5, New Age which feels like the synths have been perfectly layered, the twists in the plot are brief but to the point, the percussion as throughout the album sounds very earthly unlike Danalogue's synthwork. The most standout offering of Channel The Spirit so far.

Slam Dunk Through a Black Hole is where the sax does sound purposefully heavy and laboured, but what sounds like a soundtrack to a Gerry Anderson Supermarionation series adds a little spice to proceedings. Next track is Cosmic Dust, where Danalogue's bassline rules the roost likewise threatens to be a little laboured until midway in some telling bleeps puts an interesting spin in the plot. Longest number at 5 and a half minutes is Star Furnace, similar bassline to the previous track Cosmic Dust, few little interesting sax snippets where it feels half breaths are being drawn into the reed, the track takes a different direction halfway through.

I would certainly recommend any Progressive music fans to have a listen to this next number, the title track Channel The Spirits, as the saxophones sound very akin to King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator. Clearly it's the most active sounding here, so on to Within The Engine Deck, which is a tad too brief even with a few horns and only one loop on show. Penultimate track is where we do have a running oration from guest speaker Joshua Idehen, strictly isn't rap, fans of Dan le Sac and Scroobius Pip will most likely recognise him, and easy to see why they have attained such a cult following. Now onto the last one, End of Earth, very Dark Side of The Moon, laden with such a heavy form of a sinister instrumental, which reminds me of the closing theme to Gerry Anderson's UFO.

At first listen I thought, plenty of goings on, a few twists and turns here, and on first impressions I thought, it's an interesting piece Channel The Spirit, but a fraction disjointed at times. The running theme is easily interpretable, it's something that people from the 1960s could relate to with its concept and minimal band members, three in all, But you know something? This could really get better with age if they show this sort of depth and creativeness in their following albums. For now, a cautious mark with an expectation for better things to come.

7 out of ten. This is good and well worth a check.
Best Track : New Age

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