Album Review: Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes – “What Kinda Music”

You’re in a room, the lights are dimmed, and a pulsating beat is heard. In one corner there is Yussef Dayes, the experimental jazz player known for his immaculate drum skills, in the other stands Tom Misch, the alternative musician in the constant company of the clean guitar sound. At the same time, the space is packed with a hint of psychedelics, just a pinch that comes through every now and again in the arrangements. The room you’re in is “What Kinda Music”, their collaborative album filled with the dreamy sounds and contemporary melodies. The release is a true collaboration, even with occasional sonic domination at times, the presence of both individuals is still felt.

At first, all you hear is tranquillity, but then the piercing drum comes in during “What Kinda Music”. This isn’t the perfect pitch you’d expect from Tom Misch, especially after his previous album “Geography”. As a matter of a fact, his sound gets a bit lost in the stronger beat and futuristic tone, that just like the line from the song, is “hidden amongst the crowd”. The drums flow with the current towards “Festival” and, at first, the collaboration seems to be leaning more towards Yussef Dayes, but then it hits the perfect equilibrium of the two musician’s transcending, melancholic pop. The listener is cruising through the comfort of mutual reverence and “Nightrider” is here to make that journey more enjoyable. With a touch of lounge music, the song is all about the ease and the lyrics scream zen, as the line “top-down with the cruise control, lights out with the radio on” is sung. There is no tension, no suspense with Misch’s voice becoming the main attraction. This song does have one orgasmic Easter egg, which is the bass. The instrument is so subtle but sends waves of shock, like the second the alarm goes off in the morning, almost like air bubbles cracking through the ice.

You start to wake up rather early into the album, as the beat becomes tenser with every song. “Tidal Wave” and “Sensational” are faster in pace, but the latter is fully acoustic. Only 5 songs in and the ears become so accustomed to the drums that you keep waiting to hear them in every track. “Sensational” just doesn’t deliver as the string takes away from what was to be an indescribable rhythm of the percussions. The album fits somewhere in between that time when you first open your eyes at the crack of dawn and the moment you get on with the day. Let’s be honest, some parts of the process are more enjoyable than others. “The Real”, although starts with an old-school Kanye West-like intro, goes right back into the calmness, but not in a tonal sense, it’s more of a character trait you wish was in your possession: “And if it doesn’t work out, that’s fine”.

The snooze button is pressed one more time, as “Lift off” puts the listener right back into the well-accustomed light nap.  Once again, we’re fully acoustic, although now there is a hint of attitude. The integrated funk of the drums, bass, and guitar houses the interstellar feel, but the tension builds up as if approaching Earth and starting to feel the gravitational pull. We’re back to another attempt of getting out bed, this time around it’s Tom Misch coming to the rescue with the upbeat guitar. The interaction of the rhythms doesn’t die down but doesn’t hit the peak either.

The album is front-heavy, with the second half sounding more like an entertaining instrumental jam session, one that doesn’t end without a couple of fillers. But, if we are to go on with the ‘early morning’ analogy, then we’d simply be entering that part of the ritual where it’s time to get out of bed and prepare to face the day. “Last 100” is that kick if the ass that gets you to actually pull the blanket off with the volume of the guitar, “Kyiv” is the slow walk to the bathroom to do the morning routine, “Julie Mangos” is the first sip of coffee, and “Storm Before The Calm” is when you start to feel properly awake, but still not quite ready for human interaction.

“What Kinda Music” starts as a surprise but doesn’t deliver that energetic release by the end. There is no disappointment, no anger, just a hint of unmet expectations. The instrumental interaction is one of a kind, but there are tracks where the Yussef Dayes’ drums take on the heavy load. Tom Misch’s clear voice is heard every now and again, but that auditory sensation doesn’t last long enough. The album seems to have a range of buts, that is not to say that it’s not worth a listen. On the contrary, the songs, individually, are highly engaging on the sonic level, it’s when the collective listening comes in that it becomes a bit too repetitive of a routine. “What Kinda Music”, without a doubt, has a recognisable sound, just a bit too recognisable by the end.


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