Out of the Coma: Comus returns from long hiatus with new smoky jazz edge

Comus, Out of the Coma, Coptic Cat, NIFE 014CD (2012)

Out of the coma? – more like out of the deep freeze for this English dark folk band whose last recording came out in the mid-1970s! And while some people might prefer that the new Comus sound exactly like the old Comus, one must allow that in the very long hiatus between the mid-1970s and 2012 the band members must have been listening to plenty of music and absorbing influences, and that very definitely shows here: there’s a mellow jazz edge to the music which makes Comus a bit more contemporary. The sound is fresh and clear and the Comus vibe still has just the right touch of derangement which is very necessary in songs like the title track and the following song “The Sacrifice”. Lyrics deal with resurrection, sacrifice and rebirth on a different plane of existence, and there’s a bonus of a live recording from 1972 that the band found recently.

“Out of the Coma” sounds like a very robust folk-oriented song with passionate singing, at least until the instrumental passage kicks in and that’s a real surprise with saxophone lending a smoky air. “The Sacrifice” is more like the Comus of old with male and female vocal duetting and a pastoral air with sweet flute melody, violin and acoustic guitar: the song swings from serene and peaceful to urgent and anxious as the subject of the song meets her inevitable end to appease an unknown pagan god and assure the next year’s harvest. “The Return” is a beautiful if dark song that switches from major to minor key and back and includes a soulful saxophone solo halfway through.

“The Malgaard Suite”, introduced by Roger Wootton, is the bonus 1972 recording recovered and cleaned up for “Out of the Coma”. Despite it having been recorded on a tape recorder, the sound quality is not bad at all and the song just sounds as if it had been recorded in a room with muted acoustics. The song is a tango-ing duet of male and female singing accompanied by violin and bassoon and at times has a jaunty rhythm. The muted sound actually gives the song a forlorn and slightly desolate quality that suits the recovered / reconstructed lyrics.

The album is a welcome return for Comus: it might not quite reach the heights of the “First Utterance” album in inventiveness and inspiration but there is still plenty of life in the band yet. Comus could have pushed the smoky jazz angle a little more to give the songs more grit and urban edge but that’s just a niggly point and many Comus fans will be happy with the band as it is now.

Contact: Comus

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