‘The Afterlife’ album review
By Matthew Fraser, Opinions Editor
Shabaka Hutchings and his cohorts return to tear the stereotypical jazz trio image apart with the album The Afterlife, the companion piece to Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery. This LP abounds with space-age cool, free-jazz intricacy, and techno fervour. The Comet is Coming continues to blend 70s free jazz with modern electronic music in a fresh and unheard-of style.
Immediately, the LP opens with Joshua Idehen shouting “The comet is coming! Babylon burned down!” The song “All That Matters Is The Moments”wastes no time setting the stage for what proves to be a walk between space jazz and esoteric future spiritualism. The rhythm guitar and drums are spaced throughout the sound field to help create an epic preamble and soon the bassline undulates into your head while its distortion underpins the words of Idehen. The sound sets heads rocking back and forth like a metronome and your neighbors will wonder when the pulsing spacecraft will take off. As the beat poetry chanting and bassline give each other strength, the saxophone rift sets the tone for a short and enjoyable voyage into space.
As if to reassure the listener from the jarring power of the first track, “The Softness Of The Present”is an atmospheric travel alongside synths with a driving yet simple tribal rhythm. After the aggressive intro, it does well to slow down and draw the listener past the Armageddon spelled earlier by Idehen and into the promise of untapped wonders.
However, the title track “The Afterlife”unsettles with a deep and unnerving sound reminiscent of the void. It offers textures and synths more in line with a space-horror film. “The Afterlife” returns to the destruction foretold in “All That Matters.”Somehow, a menacing keytar paves the way for a series of saxophone fills and modes while bongos hold the pace in deep centerstage. Strange and ominous sounds float throughout while the sax player roams and haunts the soundscape. Before long lasers give way to a drumline that builds into a crescendo, eventually slipping away like mars sand through an astronaut’s gloves.
“Lifeforce Pt 1” is the first of the LP’s two forays into 80s-esque computer sounds. The free-jazz sax and brush-tickled cymbals stay true to the band’s origins while the digital bass veers towards the size and power of an IMAX space documentary. By the time “Lifeforce Pt II” begins, listeners are prepared for cheesy funk escapades unheard of since PBS kid’s show intros. You won’t have to wait long before there is a dramatic funk key change—by the end you will be sure the sax player has three lungs.
Close your eyes for a second and imagine a monastery on Venus; to your left is a cyborg tai-chi class and to your right is a Mercury garden modeled after the sand gardens of Japan. “Seven Planetary Heavens” is the soundtrack to that scene. The key thought here is “future tranquility,” the triangle and percussion unite to make “space tantra” the new spiritual vibe. If your healing crystals demanded a banger it would be this. The latent eastern snake charmer sounds will teleport incense into your room, and the world beats flavor will transport you to the centre of galactic harmony. Thusly, The Afterlife ends its epic ride.
Overall a strong LP, best suited to long time Cometor Hutchings fans—but quite rewarding for someone looking to see the state of avant-garde jazz today.
“All That Matters Is The Moment”
“Seven Planetary Heavens”