Album Review: Alfa Mist – Antiphon (Pink Bird)

A fabulous recording of deep grooves

Alfa Mist is a dark horse, a London based producer and composer he has worked with a number of artists in the neo soul field but when it came to making something on his own he took a different track. The meaning he gives to the album’s title is unapologetic, possibly because it’s at odds with the material he is known for. For Antiphon is essentially a variation on the broad theme of jazz, a modern interpretation of a mellow, lounge style that had its heyday in the sixties but which is rarely heard from contemporary artists. Make that never, I have never heard down tempo, keyboard driven jazz grooves of this ilk. If anything it relates to some of the releases of the nu-jazz era in the nineties but that’s clutching at straws. This music doesn’t feel new but neither is it a pastiche of what’s gone before, it’s fresh and, more importantly, it’s honest.

Alfa is of the opinion that music should reflect exactly how the artist feels and describes himself as a reflective guy, so that’s the nature of this release. On the bandcamp page where you can buy a lossless (or lossy) download Antiphon is described as hip hop/rap jazz but I suspect that is so that people aren’t put off by having the J word upfront. There is one track on here, 7th October, that features rap, presumably from Alfa Mist as no other artist is credited. There is singing on Breathe, a piece by vocalist and bass player Kaya Thomas-Dyke who is clearly a talented artist, but otherwise vocals are limited to conversations in the background at the beginning and end of tracks for the most part. These are about home life, mental health and relationships and are between Alfa Mist and his brothers, it’s not clear if that’s in the familial or buddy sense however.

Backing up Mist’s keyboards is Jamie Houghton on drums who plays in a spare, snappy style that perfectly balances bass from Thomas-Dyke and Rudi Creswick. Johnny Woodham contributes beautifully phrased mute trumpet and Maria Medeva counters with alto sax. Less expected are the electric guitars of Jamie Leeming and Mansur Brown, the latter’s soul/jazz contribution on Nucleus being a highlight of the album. There are strings too on some numbers, all of which adds up to a rich tonal pallet that Mist guides effortlessly through eight numbers.

All of which might have passed me by if Antiphon didn’t sound so good. It was recorded, mixed and mastered by Rick David at Pink Bird studios in London. He used a vintage Cadac A series analogue console and Lynx AD/DA converters, David says he used “appropriately applied EQ and compression” and it sounds like it. This is not audiophile but the sound is a big step up from most ‘real world’ releases. The image could have more scale but it does have depth, and the absence of heavy compression means it sounds good when you push the volume. This is a fabulous recording of some deep grooves, all that we need now is for a repress of the vinyl that sold out before it was pressed!

-Jason Kennedy

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