Last Wednesday, after spending the day fasting for the high holiday, my night took on different levels of highness as UK trio The Comet is Coming brought their mind-bending, cosmic blend of electronica, jazz and alternative instrumental music to Los Angeles’ El Rey Theatre. While completely without vocals, the group’s music still is able to take listeners on an internal voyage through high-velocity beats, intense rhythms and burning sax trances.
Opening the show was Salami Rose Joe Louis, a quiet, somewhat mousy figure in overalls who created art-pop soundscapes that moved between uneasy and dreamy. While not really my taste, I could appreciate some of the more floral melodies that bloomed from her set-up, and was pleasantly surprised when she broke out a harmonica and blasted out an off-kilter blues solo over her pastoral music.
The crowd at the show was one of the most diverse looking that I had seen in recent memory, speaking to the mass-appeal The Comet is Coming’s music has. The trio, playing live drums, synths and a saxophone, create music that can be intense and anxiety-inducing, while also forcing one’s body into dance-like convulsions that are hard to resist. When the group hit the stage, no words were said; the music just began, and the impulse to dance took over.
Being instrumental music, it was difficult to identify at times what song the group was playing. And this is not because their song’s don’t have individual musical identities – on the contrary, one of the reasons the group stands out is that they manage to write music that does not all sound the same. Tracks like “Pyramids” simmer and hatch into thumping drum and bass club bangers, while “Code” slaps and bangs as the sax takes on a frightening, haunting aura. Show highlight was of course the hyper-kinetic single from the group’s second album, “Summon the Fire”. This song raises the dead dancing soul and compels you to move.
An hour into the show, the band had still not spoken a word to the audience, and I was actually appreciating the kismet of it; a band with no vocals keeping things mysterious and letting their music speak for them. I was a little disappointed when the synth player did finally address the crowd, though it was to introduce the band members and share gracious words with the audience for being there, so you can’t fault them for that. They then went into one of their most mellow and melodic songs, “Unity”, which gave the audience a chance to breathe and zone out to the low-key beats.
One interesting aspect of the show was how individual band members would often move to the side of the stage (usually when another member was doing a solo) and fire up a lighter and burn a small object to create a bit of smoke. It was a ritualistic act, and while I wasn’t sure if it was incense or something else they were burning, it did play well into the mystique of the group. Of course usually the audience’s attention would be on the musician in the spotlight for the moment, as they showed off their skills.
By evening’s end, it was hard not to be exhausted from dancing the evening away. While the music did start to blend together for me at the end, that was likely from a day of not eating and fatigue setting in. The Comet is Coming played a smashing show, and one which could possibly be enhanced further with mind-altering substances (but I will say none were necessary for enjoyment). See their current tour dates here and listen to their latest album Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam!