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Alfa Mist: Bring Backs (Anti-)

A review of the London-based producer, pianist, and MC's latest album

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Alfa Mist: Bring Backs
The cover of Bring Backs by Alfa Mist.

London-based producer, pianist, and MC Alfa Mist has generated a growing stateside buzz, with his earlier releases Nocturne (2015), Antiphon (2017), and Structuralism (2019) positing ’70s funk-jazz tempered by hip-hop as undying source and sustenance.         

Recalling Lonnie Liston Smith’s Astral Traveling and various Strata-East titles, Bring Backs arises from a subterranean space of plaintive spoken word, lilting Rhodes keyboard, and elastic funk jams informed by heavily effected trumpet and guitar solos. Recorded in London with Jamie Leeming (guitar), Kaya Thomas-Dyke (bass and vocals), Jamie Houghton (drums), and Johnny Woodham (trumpet), the album functions practically as a suite, one composition rolling into the next, as ominous bliss travels within and without.

Opener “Teki” is a full-on jam comprising chorused guitar, smooth horn lines, and a steaming rhythm bed that establishes the album’s direction. “People” quickly changes the vibe, as finger-plucked acoustic guitar supports a Thomas-Dyke vocal that addresses global apathy. A chunky hip-hop beat insinuates nocturnal stasis on “Mind the Gap.” Watery trumpet lines and a bouncy pocket determine “Last Card (Bumper Cars).” Side two (if you’re listening to vinyl) kicks off with “Coasting,” which seemingly resumes the groove from the end of side one, Mist’s cherubim-like Rhodes tracing a serpentine melody that’s joined by a wah-wah trumpet and eventual drum breaks before abruptly ending mid-tune. The Chick Corea-ish intro of “Attune” leads to a coma-like stillness, before the dark string-quartet sounds of “Once a Year” segue into “Organic Rust,” a J Dilla-inspired beat buffeting a rap lament and weirdly effected instrumentation in this bleaked-out, contemporary vision.

Learn more about Bring Backs on Amazon!

Ken Micallef

Ken Micallef was once a jazz drummer; then he found religion and began writing about jazz rather than performing it. (He continues to air-drum jazz rhythms in front of his hi-fi rig and various NYC bodegas.) His reportage has appeared in Time Out, Modern Drummer, DownBeat, Stereophile, and Electronic Musician. Ken is the administrator of Facebook’s popular Jazz Vinyl Lovers group, and he reviews vintage jazz recordings on YouTube as Ken Micallef Jazz Vinyl Lover.