Arts Reviews

Album Review: Tom Misch And Yussef Dayes – What Kinda Music

Tolu Sangowawa

The phrase ‘genre-defining’ is probably overused in the music industry, but it’s the only term that can be used to describe this fruitful and expansive collaboration between two artists of very different disciplines.

Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes may be artists of different disciplines, but they are no doubt two artists who have come up through similar paths. Both artists hail from South London roots, growing up in Peckham and therefore benefiting from the sparkling and diverse South London jazz scene. 25 year old musician and producer Misch burst onto the scene in 2018 with his debut studio album Geography, showcasing his signature guitar riffs and hip-hop production style. Dayes took a different route- the talented jazz drummer was half of ‘Yussef Kamaal’, an experimental project that culminated in a critically acclaimed release in 2016.

After meeting in 2018, the pair spent two years creating What Kinda Music. The contrast between the fascinating experimental nature of the album and the playful, light-hearted vibe is apparent throughout, underlined by Dayes’ infectious drum rhythms.

There’s no doubt that What Kinda Music is a massive jump from Misch’s last album Geography, probably to the disappointment of many of his loyal fans. A big fan of his previous work myself, I was equally as impressed as shocked when I heard the opening/title track ‘What Kinda Music’. This is a dark, experimental song that immediately sets the tone for the whole album. Dayes’ hard-hitting drums create an intense atmosphere that would catch fans of Geography by surprise. Where Geography was perhaps too clean cut and potentially insincere in its catchy nature, this new collaborative project oozes authenticity.

The synth bass and fast drums help create this extreme emotion for the listener

The intense atmosphere is continued in the following song ‘Festival’, showcasing Misch’s impressive production skills. The synth bass and fast drums help create this extreme emotion for the listener, an emotion that is hard to put your finger on but is of course unique to each listener. The A side of this project tells you what Yussef Dayes is all about, with his delicious drum rythyms cleverly placed slightly higher in the mix.

Dayes’ impact on the album cannot be seen any clearer than on the track ‘Nightrider’. This, a personal favourite of mine, is almost like the big sigh of relief you need immediately after the intensity of ‘Festival’. This is definitely a song made for warm summer evenings, or just a chilled out drive in the sun as shown in the official music video. The repetitive drum pattern, coupled with a wonderfully crafted bassline by Tom Driesler, creates a smooth groove that the listener can just get lost in. The feature in this song almost comes as a surprise, with Freddie Gibbs layering a wonderful verse at the end, adding to the overall smooth vibe (‘Should I bless the track or let it breathe?’).

It’s very clear that Misch and Dayes bring out the best in each other. The tight drums-guitar interplay is shown throughout and particularly in tracks such as ‘Lift Off’ and ‘Kyiv’. Perhaps the two most experimental tracks on the album, they remind the listener how good of a guitarist Misch really is- something which Geography couldn’t show to the same extent. These two songs can also be seen as a reference to the pair’s jazz roots, showing off what can be done when you get two great musicians improvising and jamming in the same room.

The feminine presence adds a different energy to the album, and also brings in a soulful element to the music

The more recognisable Misch does still exist in this album; his playful side is seen in songs ‘The Real’ and ‘Last 100’. Fans that are more familiar to his past discography probably gravitate towards these songs, as they display his catchy guitar riffs and positive lyrics. ‘The Real’ is a pleasant reminder of his hip-hop production skills, chopping up a pitched-up Aretha Franklin sample to create a catchy feel-good song. The feminine presence adds a different energy to the album, and also brings in a soulful element to the music.

After 42 minutes of profound adventure, there’s a sense of calm restored in the final track ‘Storm Before the Calm’ through Kaidi Akinnibi’s peaceful saxophone. This jazzy ending to the project brings the listener back down to Earth, and is a fitting ending to the euphoric escape that Misch and Dayes take you on.

What Kinda Music is an album that gets better every time you hear it. An album I often compare it to is In Rainbows by Radiohead; Misch has stated the legendary band are a big influence of his and you can tell from his use of falsetto throughout What Kinda Music. But it’s more than just the falsetto. There is something distinct and authentic that stands out, a euphoria that remains constant throughout, and that is why this album will go down as one of the greats.

Tolu Sangowawa

Featured image courtesy of Justin Higuchi via Flickr. Image license found here. No changes were made to this image.

In article Tweets courtesy of @TomMisch and @YusefDayes via Twitter. No changes were made to these tweets.

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