If on a first listen it feels like a hotchpotch of oddly disjointed bits and bobs, give it another go. You may find, as I did, that it all suddenly falls wonderfully into place.
Most of us have, at one time or another, resorted to seeking out something – nay, anything – other than the prescribed work at hand with which to occupy ourselves during school lessons. I doubt however that any of us alighted on such a productive activity as south Londoner Tom Misch, who used that time to surreptitiously begin his music career. Furtively completing beats instead of worksheets, he soon accrued a significant number of tracks, many of which became very popular on SoundCloud. So popular, in fact that fans wanted to know where to purchase a full album. Thus 2014’s Beats Tape 1 was born with its creator at the tender age of 17 and, with a steady flow of beats gradually gathering thereafter, the next logical step was a sequel: 2015’s Beats Tape 2. Both display a keen and unnervingly savvy ability to create and sustain atmosphere, with each track building a little soundscape of its own. Another year goes by and we are snappily brought up to the present, and to his most recent release, the four-track EP Reverie.
Chipmunked vocals, slap bass, jazz guitar, G-funk synths, a breathy sax, trip-hop beats, hand claps, a string quartet, steel drums, maracas…such is the heady cocktail that Tom Misch has here concocted. In lesser hands, such a vast and broad-ranging set of contrasting textural elements would undoubtedly capsize the boat. Being the maverick that he is however, mischievous Misch has somehow managed to balance it all perfectly, keeping things afloat.
The stylish cover depicts Misch’s head split down the middle and parted, revealing a Native American dreamcatcher hiding inside. Legend has it that we who place the dreamcatcher above our beds at night will avoid having bad dreams, as the netted willow hoop filters them out, leaving only good thoughts to slip into our brains. This then becomes an appropriate metaphor for Misch’s music, which blasts all negativity from our minds through its sunny vibrations. Take my word for it: you simply cannot feel sad whilst listening to this EP. A wistful melancholy may take you in the verse of ‘Watch Me Dance,’ drenched as it is in prettily voiced strings and steady guitar arpeggii, but even this quickly resolves into an infectiously uplifting groove by the time we reach the pre-chorus.
If we take the artwork’s allusion to dreams more literally, we find plenty to compliment such a reading in the music, with two tracks – the first and last – explicitly referencing them. Opener ‘Crazy Dream’ finds friend and longtime collaborator Loyle Carner delivering an ultra-chilled if slightly mumbled rap in the verses whilst Misch soulfully expounds the song’s definitive line in the chorus: “And as I wake up from this crazy dream, I hope that things remain as they seem.” Let us never return to reality, for the strange worlds we invent in our dreams are far too much fun to leave behind. The funky music video suggests as much, with hallucinogenic visuals by Ruff Mercy, whose trademark skull-in-a-top-hat flashes briefly at the video’s close. It plays like a stoner proudly putting together a psychedelic scrapbook, then sitting back and grinning gleefully as it vividly comes to life before his very red eyes.
The second track, ‘Follow,’ finds Tom’s sister Laura providing a typically warm and emotive sax part, which breezes in over mellow guitar chords like a fine Mediterranean zephyr (forgive me the indulgence as I’m writing this from the Algarve – it feels appropriate). If ever there was an argument for nature over nurture, it’s surely here in the Misch family, where musical talent seems to be genetically abundant. Anyway, enough of all that tosh. It’s great stuff, and you should bloody well go and listen to it!
Reverie is out now via Beyond The Groove