Montreal's Mitch Davis Brings Vintage Funk Back to Life on 'The Haunt'

BY Luke PearsonPublished Apr 29, 2022

Montreal's Mitch Davis, the one-man-band from Montreal f.k.a. Edmonton rapper Mitchmatic, waves amiably from the 1970s on this likable debut. Compact and well-crafted, as if aiming for some kind of vintage radio sweet spot, he delivers a well-curated mix of jazz, soul, and funk on The Haunt, all guided by solid pop instincts. 

Playing every instrument on your album can be a risky choice — often leading to painstaking, over-focused performances that can suck the air out of things — but the breeziness inherent in the traditions guiding Davis (he cites supercool '50s crooner Chet Baker as an early influence) helps keep things light and sunny here, with a few clouds to keep things interesting. Here in the 21st century, you could reasonably file The Haunt alongside Cola Boyy's recent Prosthetic Boombox, and some of the more upbeat acoustic moments have a Jack Johnson feel to them — and there's at least one high-speed funk freak-out that would have Thundercat squinting at the playlist.

A gearhead and tinkerer on the side (his very own Mitch Davis Compressor will apparently soon be available commercially), Davis also nails the production here, the all-important vibe, getting just the right kind of modular tones for that 'dusty Clavinet in your grandpa's basement' sound. The Haunt might coast on that vibe a bit here and there, but it's a strong one, and when it all comes together, the results can be sublime, like the gorgeous horn interlude on "Left Inside" that sounds straight out of a special episode of M*A*S*H or some other obscure feature from a soulful, horn-filled past. Indeed, Davis's sax playing is pretty much the album's secret weapon. Lead duties are typically given over to this instrument, and it always elevates the proceedings — the way he introduces it for the first time in opener "In the Morning" after an unexpected detour, ushering in the chorus for one last go, is an early sign of the quality to come.

It's a quality perhaps weighted a bit to the first half, with the back end hampered by a couple of inessential cuts in the form of the plodding and overlong "Idle Days" (wider production values would help realize the worthwhile scope and ideas here) and a throwaway solo piano closer that's a perfectly fine mood piece, but in context is obvious filler. A couple more cuts and you'd have an outstanding EP; as it stands, it's a very good album, and certainly an excellent debut.
(Arbutus Records)

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