Structuralism - Alfa Mist (Album Review)
Released: 26 April 2019
Album Rating: 2/5
Live Potential: 3/5
Solo Performances: 4/5
Diversity in Songs: 2/5
Favourite Songs: ‘Falling’ (track 2), ‘Door’ (track 8)
Alfa Mist returns with his third studio album, Structuralism. The success of his 2017 record Antiphon has established this London based, originally a classically trained pianist, as a staple name in the line up of new wave jazz.
Formulaic, atmospheric, playful and powerfully melancholic, Alfa Mist stamped his characteristic style in the scene through Antiphon in 2017. Structuralism is certainly a continuation of this sound, but unexpectedly shows no development or growth in his sound, stalling Alfa Mist’s exciting timeline.
Saying this, Alfa Mist’s band has never sounded tighter. Improvisational styles unify across the album and make for a highly enjoyable display of talent. Building his rhythm through repetitively sharp chords, overlaid with softly complex improvisation with powerful spoken word wedged in between, the band playfully moves across the range of sounds. The improvisational relationship between Alfa Mist and guitarist, Jamie Leeming is brotherly. Their sounds bend and move together so delicately, particularly supporting trumpet player, Johnny Woodham who’s signature rapid staccato style flies over their rhythm. A beautiful, catchy riff commences a journey. Picking up where he previously left off, the opening track ‘.44’ could be the 9th track on Antiphon.
‘Falling’, is magical. Dreamy Kaya Thomas-Dyke’s vocals carve out an entrancing atmosphere as Alfa Mist crafts spritely, complex chord sequences that resonate behind the vocals, harking back to when Thomas-Dyke last joined the band in ‘Breathe’ on Antiphon. The atmosphere relaxes, the keyboard switches to a grand piano, a crescendo of strings lead the song out. Into ‘Mulago’, an uplifting instrumental piece, is the perfect execution of the distinctive ‘Alfa Mist’ sound.
It’s a sweet start to the album, but ‘Glad I lived’ (track 4) marks the decline in the album’s overall memorability. From here on, the songs simply plod along to the end. ‘Jjajja’s Screen’ is one slow five minutes and twenty-six seconds. A repetitious chorus of tiresome trumpets wears on the ears. The tempo sparks up in the following tune, ‘Naiyti’ which over 9 minutes exhibit some impressive solos, but yet again, the core melodic formula of the track drags. Similarly, the beat sloths along in ‘Retainer’. This set of three songs come to over 20 minutes in sequence together, the initial excitement of the beginning of the album is lost.
Thankfully, the final track ‘Door’ picks up a much-needed gripping tempo. However, the tune sounds strikingly similar to ‘Glad I lived’. One can’t help but think one’s just a re-hash of the other. But Jordan Rakei’s playful mellow voice breaks out into a flowing chorus. We are not finishing this album wholly disappointed.
Structurally, Structuralism swings nicely between a plethora of genres but lacks the creativity to manage the different sounds into something captivating. It’s a worthy, yet lacking album in Alfa Mist’s flourishing career. There are noteworthy tunes in here, but nothing much we will hark back to in the future. Alfa Mist is certainly a wonderful musician, but only time will tell if he will continue to make the history books of this booming modern jazz scene.
Listen to Structuralism here: https://open.spotify.com/album/38XUFMsLLAttgWdD40CTaL?si=1FO0djZqSJubmL4PsvnyHg