Take Five: The Comet is Coming, James Brandon Lewis, Louis Cole, Snarky Puppy, and Butcher Brown
The Comet Is Coming, "CODE"
When we first hailed UK rave-improv trio The Comet Is Coming back in 2017, the band's narrative of apocalyptic jams felt like a cheeky hook. From the vantage of our recent news cycle, it looks more a straight-faced response to facts on the ground. Whatever the case, there's no doubting the raw sensation of physical abandon that the band — Danalogue on synthesizers, Betamax on drums, Shabaka on tenor saxophone — creates with its molten convergence of club rhythm, punk energy and interstellar jazz. That remains true, emphatically so, on The Comet Is Coming's fourth studio album, Hyper-Dimensional Expansion Beam, due out on Sept. 23 on Impulse! Records. Check the album's opening track, "CODE," and you'll hear how the band builds intensity through repetition, incorporating elements from trance, dubstep and Tuareg desert groove.
James Brandon Lewis, "Fear Not" (feat. The Messthetics)
For another angle on our future prospects, look to the explosive new single from tenor saxophonist James Brandon Lewis, who made my favorite jazz album of 2021. "'Fear Not' is a sonic poem that captures an energy of resilience, purpose and a brighter tomorrow," Lewis says of the tune, a collaboration with The Messthetics, a trio consisting of guitarist Anthony Pirog, bassist Joe Lally, and drummer Brendan Canty. (Shahzad Ismaily joins them here on Moog synth.) The band comes by its heavy chug naturally — Canty and Lally are former members of Fugazi — and Lewis, with his whole-body approach to projection, sounds gloriously at home. This single was released along with the announcement that he has signed to Anti-, which is also home to Rafiq Bhatia and Moor Mother. It's an exciting alignment, for an artist with so much fire in his sound.
Snarky Puppy, "Bet"
By now it's generally understood that Snarky Puppy can be trusted to work any groove into a communal experience. The latest exhibit for the jury is "Bet," the lead single from the band's forthcoming album, Empire Central. This video captures the recording session for the track, before a live audience at the Deep Ellum Art Company in Dallas. The new album, due out on Sept. 30 on GroundUP Music, bears a series of dedications to mentors and other influences on the band during its formative years in Texas; "Bet" is for RC Williams, best known as longtime musical director for Erykah Badu. Hang with the performance and you'll notice several highlights, including the all-too-brief solo statements from Bob Reynolds (on tenor saxophone) and Shaun Martin (on Moog and talkbox). But the chief attraction, as ever, is the whirl of good vibes created by the band.
Butcher Brown, "Unbelievable" (explicit lyrics)
The deep-funk unit known as Butcher Brown has been busy in recent weeks: performing with Pink Siifu at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago; turning up at Robert Glasper's Blue Note Jazz Festival in the Napa Valley; throwing down at The Big What at Pop's Farm, in Martinsville, Va. (a few hours southwest from the band's home base in Richmond). There's also the matter of a new release on the near horizon: Butcher Brown Presents Triple Trey featuring Tennishu and R4ND4ZZO BIGB4ND, due out on Sept. 16. Both a big band album and an ode to hip-hop, the album pulls off its synthesis with gusto; just consult this cover of The Notorious B.I.G.'s "Unbelievable." Featuring the band's resident MC, Marcus "Tennishu" Tenney, it also underscores Butcher Brown's ability to reverse-engineer a hip-hop production — in this case, a classic by DJ Premier (who incorporated a beat from The Honey Drippers' "Impeach the President").
Butcher Brown will appear at Afropunk Brooklyn on Sept. 11.
Louis Cole, "Let It Happen"
Airtight musicianship, absurdist visuals, irreverent attitude — such are the hallmarks of multi-instrumentalist and producer Louis Cole. And each of those elements is fully apparent in the video for "Let It Happen," his new single on Brainfeeder. Featuring a succession of extreme zoom effects in public spaces — depicting Cole in Unabomber-like attire on a scrubby hillside, in a suburban shopping mall, on a beach, at a Taco Bell — the video (directed by Cole himself) conveys a sort of stealth sincerity, a feeling underscored by the musical and lyrical arc of the song. Cole sings, in an intimate falsetto, about being caught between dreams and a waking state, between the sky and the sea; it's a portrait of woozy alienation. The chorus, with its sunburst of harmonic modulations, delivers an almost euphoric release. "Everything will be," Cole sings soothingly, encouragingly. "Let it happen."