Tom Misch is one of the few artists that every one of my siblings agree on. This is no mean feat, given that the last musical act to fully fit this criteria was The Spice Girls, who split up a few years after the youngest of us was born. Leading the vanguard of revitalised neo-soul, jazz and downtempo music coming out of the UK, Misch, the multi-talented producer, guitarist, vocalist and Internet darling has burrowed his way into popular imagination with a small avalanche of self-released material. I’ve never met him, but by all accounts, he is fountain of musical ideas, gushing songs faster than most labels could possibly arrange into a normal schedule. It seems that every time I get onto my computer there’s a new offering from the guy, which is really a blessing. Not only is it good for my ears, but it allows me to send links to my brother and sister across the world, usually in a group chat that also involves our mother. It occurred to me the other day that she must get dozens of references and links daily to things that don’t concern her in the slightest but she’s always good-natured about it. That lines up nicely with this song, which bookends Misch’s latest outing and is dedicated to his mother, Carol. Family affairs are the key to Misch’s success; he’s always got a coterie of new collaborators to shine a light on in his compositions, ranging from the top of the pile to relative newcomers. ‘For Carol’, which is the fifth song Misch created in five days as part of a new project just to make us feel terrible about our lack of creative output crosses over these two types of kin, in a gorgeous, orchestral instrumental number.
Misch’s secret weapon this time around is Tobie Tripp, a violinist, string arranger and composer who lends his formidable skill set to the song. He weaves in an august ostinato that sounds almost oriental, like it’s being played on a Japanese string instrument. The way the strings slide down between the underlying pizzicato phrases is just so beautiful, imbued with a sort of longing that is almost indescribable. Misch uses this as a launch spot, building in synths that seem like they’ve come from an Air track, soft kick drum, piano and eventually, that unique guitar he’s known for. In the sum of its parts, so much of this hearkens back to another closing song, Incubus’ ‘Aqueous Transmission’, which used unconventional strings to a similar effect in 2001. You wait for a huge explosion of emotion, but it never really comes. Like a relationship between mother and cub, it’s a gradual burn, only reaching a relative peak with Misch’s solo in the fourth minute. Bright and clean like John Mayer, his guitar tone rings out across the sonic bed, but never overwhelms it. Instead, that is left to the listener, who floats along on a musical journey that, when it finishes, seem like it’s only just begun.
It’s one of those pieces that make you shiver and smile simultaneously. Even when you’re listening to it with brothers and sisters across continents.
Mischon accomplished, I’d say.