Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes – ‘What Kinda Music’ review: probably more fun to make than it is to hear

Schmaltzcore don Tom Misch has teamed up with jazz experimentalist Yussef Dayes. The duo complement one another, but it can be disengaging

Here we have two gifted musicians collaborating to satiate curiosity, challenge each other and have fun. The pairing of Tom Misch and Yussef Dayes – two talented young stalwarts of the UK’s booming contemporary jazz scene – is a rigorous and at times rewarding one.

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Misch, who released his solid, sun-kissed electro-soul debut ‘Geography’ in 2018, is a melody head with pop proclivities. Dayes, who hails from UK jazz group United Vibrations, is a drummer with more experimental leanings. They have history: now 24, south London’s Misch watched Dayes, 27, play drums in a school talent show when he was a kid. They reunited at the launch party for Misch’s debut, a meeting that proved the catalyst for this collaboration.

Their debut album ‘What Kinda Music’ is a smooth, intuitive coagulation of sounds spanning acid jazz, hip-hop and electronica, soldered with cosmic touches (Misch provides lead production).

‘What Kinda Music’ doesn’t have much to say about the world; Misch’s lyrics largely offer platitudes about love and nostalgia. But while this album lacks bold statements, it makes up for their absence with musicianship and mood. Instrumental centrepiece ‘Sensational’ is all psychedelic wah-wah pedal solos and chugging grooves that morph into precise, broken beats. A mesmeric, proggy wig-out that could easily wind up on an indie film caper.

A similar ambience imbues ‘Nightrider’, a lithe lounge track that features rapper Freddie Gibbs. In contrast to the album’s typically lightweight subject matter, the track sees the trio explore late-night drug deals, consumerism and racial stereotyping. “Every whip I whip’s either German-made or Italian / Super dope, my geekers smoke media, Robert Townsend,” Gibbs raps, name-checking the black film pioneer who in the 1987 film Hollywood Shuffle satirised the crooked playing field faced by black actors.

On the album’s dreamier first half, we have ‘Tidal Wave’, ‘Festival’ and the record’s title track. Here, Misch uses more traditional verse-chorus structures and, sometimes – as with the lovesick ‘Tidal Wave’ – Dayes’ drums sit higher in the mix, allowing his percussive solos to take the centre stage. Dayes’ percussion becomes more playful in the album’s second half and the listener becomes a voyeur to a giant jam session. The accomplished funk arrangements on ‘Kyiv’ and ‘Lift Off’, for instance, might sound great but they dial down engagement.

There’s no doubting the musicianship on display across ‘What Kinda Music’. Misch and Dayes certainly complement one another. But it’s hard not to long for a little disruption to the album’s soothing sonic cohesion. While they were clearly having fun, it was probably more fun to make than it is to hear.


Release date: April 24

Record label: Bluenote