Music

dvsn: SEPT. 5TH (take 2)

One of Drake's best-kept secrets finds a vocalist and heads out on his own. The result is essential R&B listening.


dvsn

SEPT. 5TH

Label: Ovo Sound / Warner Bros.
US Release Date: 2016-03-27
UK Release Date: 2016-03-27
Amazon
iTunes

There's sexy and then there's sexy. You know: The kind of album that almost feels as though it was made strictly for people to get busy to. Married people. In love people. Those who are dating. Those who head out into the nighttime air, skin smelling like Vogue magazine ads, looking to drink pretty drinks and find someone with whom they can go home, if only for an evening. There are albums for these things.

Just ask R. Kelly.

Or, well, you can now also ask Canadian duo Dvsn (pronounced "Division"). Because with their debut LP, SEPT. 5TH, producer Nineteen85 and singer Daniel Daley re-up the ante on contemporary atmospheric, sex-fueled R&B, concocting songs that turn up the heat hotter than any Weeknd has been able to provide in recent memory, pretty drinks or not. These 10 songs bleed steam while creating the aura of a constant after-after-hours get-together lit by nothing more than neon lights and the sweat gleaming off promiscuous bodies.

It's simple, but it's sure as hell hot. Check the seven-minute opus that kicks off this unforgettable night, "With Me". Sparsity is the name of the game, production levels plain but polished, passive but provocative. Daley's voice is smoother than whipped cream and it doesn't take long for him to find his seductive falsetto that exquisitely establishes the sensual tone this record unforgivingly exudes. Even as the chorus of female backing vocals lifts up his moaning sometime after minute five, there's no mistaking how down (and dirty) this guy can get.

Part of the track's secret weapon? A faded guitar riff that comes courtesy of Nineteen85, real name Paul Jefferies. Sound familiar? If not, it should: he's the guy behind one of Drake's more recent smashes, "Hotline Bling". Somewhat of an overlooked soldier on the Ovo roster, he's had a hand in producing hits for everyone from Juicy J to Nicki Minaj to Jennifer Hudson. And while Daley might be front and center with his textured, inescapable vocal chops throughout these 10 tracks, this record feels more like an exercise for Jefferies to stake his claim as one of pop-R&B's more versatile minds.

And stake it he does. "Hallucinations" is a borderline brilliant slow-burn that takes the listener through all the turmoil wrestling with aberration can bring, and it does so more through the producer's subtleties than it does the singer's proclamations. No disrespect, of course -- Daley spreads his high notes out with delicious anguish as the music opens up behind him -- but a quick focus on how unbelievably scant the percussion is presented, and it's hard not to see how imperative Jefferies's work is to the dvsn equation. Because if all else fails, there's a killer organ that lurks behind each second of this that provides uncanny ambiance.

Speaking of ambiance, "Try/Effortless" takes that milieu and adds a tiny bit of bounce. Perhaps the set's most accessible offering, it's driven by a combination of scatting snare hits and a bass line that sounds like it should have been the theme song for a 1986 television series set in Miami. It echoes in and out of attention while Daley's cadence turns from desperate crooner to upstart hip-hop impresario with ease. When he explains how he's "got rules, but I'm breaking them all for you, breaking them all for you," there's a blend of vulnerability that's not unlike the sensitivity that made this duo's boss famous.

It's not all downtrodden, mind you. "Another One" takes that same Drive-soundtrack, synthed-out bass effect and throws an uptempo groove on top of it, complete with percussion that grants it two-step flare. Meanwhile, the title track hides nothing in terms of intention as Daley admits, "I could make it better/If I could have sex with you." The rest of the dong carries on in that vein: on an album filled with all the feels feeling the feels, this is the spot where our protagonist sounds the most frustrated, both in lyric and emotion. The move works masterfully, creating a dichotomy between the weird urgency in voice and the woozy musical influences that surround it.

Interestingly, things work just as well when these guys decide to go the traditional route. "Angela" features live drums and -- gasp! -- a horn section, and it wouldn't appear out of place on your favorite Jill Scott or Anthony Hamilton or Musiq Soulchild record. It's a triumph of sound, a moment of fullness that disagrees with most of its predecessors in all the right ways. "The Line" then finds the sweet spot between that silly "neo" tag that feels so dated at this point, and where modern rhythm and blues currently sits, in its spaced out, futuristic corner of the musical landscape. Plus, at 7:12, it sums this collection up perfectly: it's forward-thinking enough to be provocative, yet fundamental enough to be respected.

Therein lies the greatness of dvsn's SEPT. 5TH. It's fearless and essential. Someone recently made the observation on Twitter that these 10 songs should be enough to hold us over until the next Frank Ocean record and that's not really all that wrong. The more you listen to it, the more you find, the more you appreciate. Jefferies knows how to create hella vibes and Daley knows how to make you feel them. In truth, it's a minor match made in major R&B heaven.

Sexy, indeed.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Film

'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.

Music

'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"

Music

Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.

Music

Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.

Music

Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.

Music

The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".

Music

Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin
Music

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.

9
Books

Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane
Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

Mobley Laments the Evil of "James Crow" in the US

Austin's Mobley makes upbeat-sounding, soulful pop-rock songs with a political conscience, as on his latest single, "James Crow".

Music

Jordan Tice's "Bad Little Idea" Is a Satirical Spin on Dire Romance (premiere)

Hawktail's Jordan Tice impresses with his solo work on "Bad Little Idea", a folk rambler that blends bluesy undertones with satiric wit.

Music

Composer Ilan Eshkeri Discusses His Soundtrack for the 'Ghost of Tsushima' Game

Having composed for blockbuster films and ballet, Ilan Eshkeri discusses how powerful emotional narratives and the opportunity for creative freedom drew him to triple-A video game Ghost of Tsushima.

Film

Love and Cinema: The Ruinous Lives in Żuławski's L'important c'est d'aimer

Żuławski's world of hapless also-rans in L'important C'est D'aimer is surveyed with a clear and compassionate eye. He has never done anything in his anarchic world by the halves.

Books

On Bruce Springsteen's Music in Film and TV

Bruce Springsteen's music in film and television captured author Caroline Madden's imagination. She discuses her book, Springsteen as Soundtrack, and other things Springsteen in this interview.

Music

Alt-pop's merci, mercy Warns We May "Fall Apart"

Australian alt-pop singer-songwriter, merci, mercy shares a video for her catchy, sophisticated anthem, "Fall Apart".

Film

Tears in Rain: 'Blade Runner' and Philip K. Dick's Legacy in Film

Blade Runner, and the work of Philip K. Dick, continues to find its way into our cinemas and minds. How did the visions of a paranoid loner become the most relevant science fiction of our time?


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.