Review Summary: Antiphon sees Alfa Mist refine his craft while opening up artistic roads for him to hopefully explore even deeper.
Alfa Mist is laying himself bare on Antiphon
. Based on an insightful conversation he and his brothers had about mental health and relationships, it feels like a record of firsts for this young British musician, once and for all freeing himself creatively to explore his jazz affinities. The first track "Keep On" clocks in at almost 11 minutes and truly feels like a defining piece, nearly anticipating this album's main sound and theme, and capturing a fitting snapshot of its essence. The mellow organ textures, enticing percussion work and melancholic saxophone leads are able to mesh perfectly, extracting natural beauty out of turbulent feelings of loneliness and depression. The song allows for plenty of improvisation but successfully avoids becoming meandering: instead, it feels as if every single note is absolutely essential to its complexion. It is a definite standout on a project of many highs, and, like its opener, so appears a vast majority of Antiphon
: loose but focused, and an exercise of almost subtle yet intense catharsis.
All things considered, it really should be no surprise to look at this effort as an emotional cleanse of sorts. Alfa himself describes his personality as typically reflective, and admits to find in his music refuge and a response to daily struggles regarding depression and insomnia. It is only logical to see his body of work follow some type of introspective path, then. Take "Potential," for instance. The arpeggiated guitar melodies and almost haunting backing vocals employed on it add a beautifully eerie atmosphere, accentuated by a guitar solo which clashes in and takes center stage. It revolves and bends around itself, its frantic rhythm becoming almost paranoid and devoid of control, before dwindling back down to a state of serenity. The song serves, like several others seem to do, as a fitting backdrop to Alfa Mist's frame of mind.
The basic structure to this collection of songs is usually provided by his trusty organ and some exceptional drumming. The typical jazz formula may not be expanded upon regularly on some songs, but Alfa's mellow sound is created so tastefully it's easy to overlook - "Errors" and "Nucleus" being good examples. Elsewhere, he tries his hand at rapping on "4th October" to great results, and disrupts eventual feelings of excessive nodding off by introducing spontaneous guitar solos on an otherwise collected "Kyoki." But it's bass player Kaya Thomas-Dyke's singing contribution on "Breathe" that rises among this album's finest moments. The song sees her quasi-angelic voice create an encapsulating melody which shines through in a magnificent chorus, equal parts intense and memorable, only for it all to travel back to Antiphon
's main territory about 4 minutes in - as vivid saxophones and a grand string section take turns in creating an outstanding outro.
The record is assuredly abundant in highlights but does its trick even better when heard in its entirety. Antiphon
captures a defining time for Alfa Mist both musically and personally, and represents a tremendous leap for this young promising artist. One can only hope it's only a sign of even better things to come. Perfect for a late listen, it sees him refine his craft while opening up artistic roads for him to hopefully explore even deeper.