This most recent week was one of big releases. Three albums came out—Taylor Swift’s Midnights, Carly Rae Jespen’s The Loneliest, and the Arctic Monkeys’ The Car—that set social media ablaze. Late night listening parties, passionate fandoms going back and forth over who won the week, endless album rankings. Getting excited about music is always fun, especially for an industry that has seen such drastic shrinking in recent years.
Truth be told, none of the albums grabbed me in the way I always hope music will. All three acts are more or less continuing on their current trajectories—Swift is looking at the metanarrative, Jespen at explosive bursts of love, and the Monkeys are continuing their lounge band act. They’re all growing, with good songs on each, and there’s enough there for all their fans to chew on.
But do you want your music to feel like moving the chains on toward another pointless first down on a boring Thursday Night Football game? Or do you want your music to move you, not just in a sense of “Oh I’m so moved” but in the sense that you are being pushed onto a journey of sonic exploration that will bring you in touch with a higher dimension? That’s what I wanted this week, apparently, which is why I’m recommending you listen to The Comet Is Coming’s newest album, Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam.
It came out last month and it’s hard to imagine a better jazz album coming out this year. Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam shows just how head-banging a jazz album can become. It’s a physical album, one that compels a bodily response, blending with electronica on a track like “Angel of Death” that feels like Miles Davis pairing up with Oneohtrix Point Never.
This means large waves of synth tumbling at you, and then riding those waves is Shabaka Hutchings, the British Barbadian saxophonist and clarinetist who leads the trio. Officially he’s known as King Shabaka, alongside Danalogue The Conqueror (keyboardist Dan Leavers) and Betamax (drummer Max Hallett). The three create music that feels larger than life, but fundamentally human at the same time.
The opener “Code” sets the tone, with Hutchings sending out bursts and spirals that recall klezmer at moments, layered on top of a wall of sound, angelic synths. From there, things slow down to “Technicolor,” creating a groove that’s easy to get lost in. From there, “Lucid Dream” brings back the vocal synths, but now with deeper and higher registers playing off each other, creating a harmony all their own. “Tokyo Nights” ends with a pattern that almost feels like Bugs Bunny sneaking off into the sunset past a bewildered Elmer Fudd. The album shifts and sways in energy, bringing with it all of the flow of a great jam session.
Speaking to Rock & Roll Globe, Leavers described the group “like an experiment: what can three guys do? Is it possible to work cooperatively and keep it together, and give their all, and not feel too egotistical?” Expansion Beam is all about each musician pushing themselves as hard as possible within a cooperative frame.
Maybe that sounds utopian, maybe that sounds hyperbolic. Maybe you’re looking for a chill album, in which case I’d recommend last week’s selection. But if you’re looking for a sonic shift in your life, if you’re looking for an album to not just pass the time but to get lost in, you’ve really got to listen to Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam.
David Meir Grossman is a writer living in Brooklyn. His Twitter feed is @davidgross_man.