Anyone who’s interested in tracking the strange animal known as “neo-soul” might want to pay attention to J*Davey. Consisting of Jack Davey and Brook D’Leau, J*Davey takes familiar elements from hip-hop, new wave, rock, and soul, and creates an exciting twist. Jack Davey, by the way, is a lady, not a man, so don’t let the name confuse you. She is a Mohawk-wearing force to be reckoned with, sporting a voice that’s a cross between TLC’s T-Boz and Prince’s alter ego “Camille”. As you might guess, she comes off as a little weird, but she’s also fun, especially with assistance from partner D’Leau’s palette of psychedelic sounds. If you’ve heard Erykah Badu’s “Master Teacher”, from the formidable New Amerykah: Part One (4th World War), then the collaboration between Badu and Georgia Anne Muldrow offers a sharp picture of what the J*Davey approach is all about.
J*Davey’s The Beauty in Distortion release is bundled with The Land of the Lost, both of which would likely engender plenty of “fusion” and “genre-hopping” discussion. That’s basically right, but the twist is in J*Davey’s style of mixing genres all at once. At times, it’s like having two or three songs playing simultaneously rather than having two or three types of songs sharing space on a single disc. The emphasis is on the “distortion”, and it’s up to the listener to decide if there’s beauty in it or not. For this listener, the beauty is abundant, starting with the sleek and smooth opener “Divisions of Joy”, moving into the funkiest tune this side of Prince’s vault in “Mr. Mister”, and including the near-instrumental “Everybody Touch It”.
The weaknesses are few. Chiefly, there are moments when the vocals become indistinct and get swallowed up by the busy backgrounds. There are also moments, like in “Cowboys & Indians”, when the groove gets so watery you wonder whether the whole thing has devolved into mere noise. The “Mr. Mister” remix doesn’t add much to the set, but you’ll be glad to have a copy of The Land of the Lost and its healthy mesh of R&B and hip-hop, if you don’t have the mixtape that’s been in circulation.