Label: First Word Records
Released: May 2022
Instantly recognisable and renowned for a uniquely otherworldly take on jazz, Allysha Joy’s latest release ‘Torn : Tonic’ is a broken beat masterpiece that proves itself easily within its earliest bars. Intense and ominous from the first snare, opener ‘Peace’ swirls into existence and drops effortlessly into furrowed brow jazz fusion. The broken beat below swings heavy as the bassline stumbles to its knees then lurches forward, a metaphoric pleading to humanity to respect nature as Allysha wastes no time tackling head on the ills of modern society.
The second track opens with devastating chords, oscillations and warped positioning of downbeats that fling you from sleep into another corner of the universe. Pizzicato synth lines suggest orchestral sincerity as the track discusses the immense privilege of having the right to protest, and how with this comes a great responsibility. The illustrious Ego Ella May naturally provides a perfectly apt injection of gratitude for the freedoms we have, and a stoic acknowledgement of those who are denied them. The vocal prowess of London’s premier artists are showcased to levels unseen within this project, as Allysha recruits BINA. for third track 'YK x YE'. Neither Bina or Allysha are stranger to the less traditional In terms of rhythmically complex phrasing, as they expertly interweave with and imitate one another - masterfully drawing emotion from Allysha’s deeply considered chord voicings and progressions.
Fourth track ‘Let it!’ is an ode to the acceptance of self, a concept which seems to finally be gaining some traction as we continue to battle not just the times, but our apparent imperfections. ‘Let It!’ is a celebration of and longing for a move towards the attainable potential achieved by refusing to submit to competitive systems of social dominance.
“This track is a hugely significant tune for me and has been so challenging and cathartic to release! I guess it’s about letting go of our conditioning and just allowing ourselves to be who we want to be — physically, emotionally, within our sexuality and spirituality. You know, just really doing the work of de-conditioning our minds, which is incredibly hard and seemingly ongoing, as the world continues to try to place us in a box.” - Allysha Joy
Musically the track is a highlight, with a deeper inclusion of acoustic instrumentation as Rach Cohen gently follows Allysha throughout with her tonally rich saxophone lines. The rolling snare work and snips of hi-hat add a deep sense of urgency, as of course does the simple but prophetic lyric “When will I let it?” Finally, it is impossible not to mention the skittish Jaco Pastorious - esque stylings of the bassline, which continues to make this project more than worthy of the moniker of jazz.
Fifth track ‘Quit, Trying So Hard’ echoes similar sentiments as it gently encourages us to avoid the addictive nature of work. I have often mused upon what we actually afford ourselves in London - It seems that the addition of extra money through over working merely pays for the overpriced coffee I prioritise, because I didn’t get enough sleep. A vicious cycle indeed, that Allysha provides a sentient warning against. Sonically it is a fine example of dedicated production, with sizzling trilling ride cymbals entering and exiting. The synth sounds are varied and although jagged at moments are expertly mixed. The song truly makes you realise that it is almost impossible to ‘stop’ with the lure of adulation, money or simply a distraction from the sadness of home sitting so seductively in front of us. Emotional relationships fall by the wayside, as capitalism assures us our money will be more than enough to replace love and companionship.
Sixth track ‘Still Dreaming’ takes a decidedly more melancholic turn, and there is further homage to Allysha’s clear affinity to Neo Soul. The live bass and futuristic synth lead combine beautifully, as do the wonderful inflections of Rhodes. Despite beginning under a grey cloud, the track lifts through blocks of stunning harmonies. The track addresses the necessity of gratitude and enjoyment for what we have in the face of unsatisfied desires amidst all fields of life, with a foreboding mantra as the track exits
“So check yourself dreaming, we slip so quick, check your shit.” Seventh track 'Remedy' remains in a self reflective and frustrated vein, with a continued presence of live bass. The rhythm spies and darts, before cascading via a wonderful modal synth string line that preempts an even more spare section of intense lyricism. It really does help one gain confidence in the healing power of holistic introspection regarding cyclic hormonal processes.
“So leave me here to soak. I am my own remedy, they never wanted us to know…”
With each track the project becomes further and further a groove based study in experimentation. The gentle warble applied to the Rhodes and of course the consistently confused progressions it plays align with endlessly original ingenious sound design inspired polyrhythms which are a constant delight, found in earnest in eighth track ‘Healers’ which leads directly into the work’s only clear ballad - ‘Fatima’. Despite every track being gently cloaked in the inescapable reality of our world’s plight, ‘Fatima’ is gentle - a love letter to our inner and outer selves, presenting the idea of an attainable self love that exists outside of the rampant delusions we are desperately trying to conform to. It is an amalgamation of most of the sonics from throughout the project, though there is a noticeable subtlety in bassline as it is presented almost as an invisible lead for the resolving chord progression, all of which leaves room for this deeply important message of self acceptance, a running theme throughout the entire project.
'Torn : Tonic' concludes with the optimistic and inspirational ‘G.N.D’ which I shall leave for Allysha herself to explain below. All in all the album is frankly a masterpiece, sincere and passionately keen to benefit others at its own expense through deep contemplation, self acceptance and an utter shunning of superficiality. Sonically it is a feast for those in need of a meeting of the sensual, emotional and intellectual and Allysha Joy should be absolutely applauded for her relentless suffering for her art.
“This track stands for Green New Deal — in the name and the message this is about intersectional change and I think that’s really the theme of the whole album. It’s about recognising the link between personal, social and political change to create a better future environmentally, mentally and economically. It’s about bringing women and non binary voices to the front. I’m just out here sounding the alarm alongside many others that continue to inspire me!” - Allysha Joy