For reasons that remain unexplained, the London experimental trio The Comet Is Coming started their late-night Red Marquee set about 15 minutes earlier than scheduled. Consequently, we arrived in the middle of a song that had already climaxed dramatically. It was a bit of a letdown, since the whole point of the band is the way they build to a chaotic finish.
But that’s slightly misleading, since Comet’s real achievement is how they start at 10 and just keep getting louder and wilder. The focus of the band is the keyboards of Danalogue the Conqueror, who seems to lead the group and has the most extroverted personality. On stage he stood behind his bank of instruments and made the most out of the band’s hip-hoppy grooves.
But the band’s secret weapon is saxophonist King Shabaka, whose wailing insistence never lets up, even when the arrangement calls for a bit of quiet. Though often categorized as jazz, the band’s music is more like garage rock taken to the extreme: The idea is to build tension until there’s nothing left to compromise. The audience dug the dynamic, but you could sense that some felt there was more to life than wailing incessantly for an hour.
The rest of us couldn’t get enough, and in that sense The Comet Is Coming is the jazz cognate of Death Grips, another trio that takes its chosen genre — hip hop — to extremes that no one else knew existed. The fact is, club kids like the ones who went crazy as Comet itself get their point probably better than bona fide jazzbos do.