Alfa Mist has unleashed ‘Variables’, his second release via Anti-. The ten-track album is his most expressive and fully-realised work yet, adding to his arsenal of projects that include ‘Antiphon’, ‘Structuralism’, and ‘Bring Backs’. With each project, the East London artist, producer and label founder captivates his listeners with virtuosic piano playing, emotive saxophone and trumpet lines, with iconic and introspective lyricism firmly folded in between.
There’s something altogether liberating about Alfa Mist’s sound, his natural penchant for reflectiveness and tenderness breeds an energy that swallows you whole. This comes as no shock given that his ability to weave together complex and captivating compositions is well known by now, he’s highly sought after due to his distinctive fusion of intimate bedroom production and expansive jazz group orchestration. Standing with a plethora of eclectic endeavours to his name, from hip-hop beat-making to composing neo-classical works for the London Contemporary Orchestra.
On ‘Variables’ Alfa Mist swims between an all-encompassing pensiveness to gentle release. It creates an entirely new dimension to the album if you were to think of it as a daydream, as you begin with ‘Foreword’ you’re held in the grip of an introspective orchestra ensemble, as though you’re sitting pondering a complex issue, staring out the window of a coffee shop. As you watch, ‘Borderline’ treads into your mind, its weave of poetry and soft tones lift your consciousness into a daydream that spans across eight songs until Alfa Mist’s voice pulls you back into reality at the end of ‘4th Feb (Stay Awake)’ with a commanding “yo, wake up!”. Returning to ‘BC’ which echoes the same tentative energy as the opening song.
There are some very distinct new heights on ‘Variables’ the first is ‘The Gist’ where the pacing snowballs as the horn section takes the forefront set against a vibrant surge of unrestrained and expressive percussion. The second is delivered at the hands of ‘Aged Eyes’ where Kaya Thomas-Dyke’s ethereal vocals draw out the intricate layers in the bossa nova-infused acoustic guitar. His featured artists are few but his inspirations are varied and many, from Bongeziwe Mabandla’s South African folk singing to Jas Kayser’s feverish drum playing, Alfa Mist continues to calmly defy genre classification.
‘Variables’ gently pushes Alfa Mist in a newer direction, there are glimpses of his usual evocative and bassy tones, but overall the project is almost absent of his vocal presence. This comes across as a very considered move, however, indicative of a need to show rather than tell this time. A symptom of an artist who’s consistently allowing their sound to expand above and beyond even their own expectations.
Words: Naima Sutton