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Tom Misch/Yussef Dayes - What Kinda Music Music Album Reviews

The second album from Tom Misch, the London-based musician and producer, is an expansive and fruitful collaboration with drummer Yussef Dayes, one that brings out the best in each other.  

After Tom Misch’s beige and overly polished 2018 debut, What Kinda Music, a collaboration with drummer Yussef Dayes, brings a flutter of hope. Yussef Kamaal, Dayes’ project with Henry Wu, was instrumental in bringing the South London jazz scene to the fore in the mid-2010s, and was championed by tastemaker Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood imprint. After the duo split in 2017, Dayes went quiet and Wu went on to perform as Kamaal Williams. As a fully collaborative album, What Kinda Music feels doubly heavy. For Dayes, it represents his first full-length release since the breakup of Yussef Kamaal; for Misch, it’s a proving ground for his musical chops. What Kinda Music is cosmic in scope; the reverb layered throughout the album makes it expansive, and you can hear both musicians stretching themselves to the outer limits
As a pair, Dayes and Misch bring out the best in each other. Where Geography was almost too clean, What Kinda Music is muddied with depth and darkness from Dayes’ rhythms, offsetting Misch’s pitch-perfect vocals. This is particularly true on “Tidal Wave,” where Dayes’ drum rolls and hollow wooden taps provide a counterpoint to Misch’s layered vocals. The mutual respect between the pair is tangible: From Misch’s admiring lyrics in “Nightrider” (“Mr. Dayes with the break of the drums/It’s icy cold”) to the tight interplay between the separate drum and guitar improvisations in “Kyiv,” the album bears both their signature imprints.
What Kinda Music also feels indebted to the collaborative nature of the South London jazz scene, as does the presence of saxophonist Kaidi Akinnibi and Dayes’ previous collaborator, bassist Rocco Palladino, as features on “Storm Before the Calm” and “Lift Off.” The interplay between the three different musicians on each track feels tightly coordinated, without necessarily requiring distinct sections for each player. Elsewhere, What Kinda Music is catchy without being insincere or vacuous. “I Did It For You” is just one repeated refrain, and Misch’s whispered vocals seem wistful over a multi-layered guitar riff and Dayes’ buzzing drumline. The pitched-up vocal sample on “The Real” plays against Misch’s brief and softly sung interlude, which has the effect of parting stage curtains for a well-delivered monologue.

Not only do Dayes and Misch offer an alluring marriage of virtuosity and pop, the album feels like the best recent example of Brian Eno’s theory of scenius as opposed to genius: the theory that it takes community and collaboration to spark something incredible, rather than the work of one gifted individual.
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