Midway through the hip-hop influenced “Borderline,” the second track on his formidable new album, East Londoner multi-hyphenate Alfa Mist takes to the mic: “My skin is darker, that means you know who I am before I talk, right?…Everyday trauma, normalized/ Three options: music, sport or crime.” Earlier in his career, Alfa Sekitoleko tried his hand as a footballer, but thankfully music remains his primary option. Variables deftly blends hip-hop, soul, and the electrifying grooves of new London jazz scene, all of it driven by Mist’s guiding hand on keyboards, crafting a heady meditation on the paths taken (or not) in life. The bright, gleaming “Apho” – sung in Xhosa by folk singer Bongeziwe Mabandla – meditates on remembrance and the passing of days. Throughout, Alfa Mist expertly toggles between concise pop numbers and heady fusion jams, highlighted by longer numbers like “The Gist” and the title track that stake out space between Lonnie Liston Smith and Mahavishnu Orchestra. In an alternate world, “Aged Eyes” would already be a neo-soul classic, underpinned by a smooth bossa rhythm and bassist Kaya Thomas-Dyke’s heartrending vocal about love, loss, and that overriding option of “living in my memories.”

Andy Beta