"The Beauty in Distortion / The Land of the Lost" by J*Davey

J*Davey
The Beauty in Distortion / The Land of the Lost

Interdependent Media
2008

Review

After some deliberation, I believe that it was a good thing that at first, I had no clue what genre to put this album under. It vacillated between "Electronic" and "Soul". Finally, I had to admit that it was "Electronic Soul", but still mostly Soul. This "album" is actually two separate releases combined into one handy-dandy purchasable entity. I like to think of it as one solid album and an album of passable B-Sides. Still, the first disc is very good and well deserving of a listen.

Disc 1

You will understand the genre confusion when you are introduced to J*Davey the collaboration between singer Jack Davey (nee Briana Cartwright) and producer Brook D'Leau. There are no analog instruments present on the album. It's all Electronics here. Beeps and blips with souled out beat machines and synthesizers are served up a plenty on the J*Davey menu. This is evident on the opener "Division of Joy" which serves as not only the album's introduction but a small dip into the pool of Brook's beats and Jack's "T-Boz-ish" voice. While the intro track whets the appetite, the follow-up begins to show the potential of the pairing.

"Mr. Mister" is a solid uptempo Electronic Soul song that has a thumping bassline that although not your traditional radio Soul song could likely stand beside anything playing on the radio. This is followed up by "Everybody Touch It" which serves to showcase the talents of the producer and make no mistake J*Davey is made successful by the production (so long as it stays upbeat - more on that later).

The formula of Electronic Soul beats and T-Boz'ish singing really comes together best for the outstanding "Private Parts" and "No More" (maybe a bit more on "No More"). It's clear that this duo is coming on some other other level. If Georgia Anne Muldrow is Hip-Hop aesthetics brought to Soul, J*Davey is Electronic aesthetics brought to Soul. For me, that's a good thing. I'm all for groups that push or exceed the boundaries presented by the genre they are grounded in. I'm not sure J*Davey is quite there yet, but for sure Disc 1 shows promise.

Lyrically things are solid here. I was digging the high-concept of "Camera (Gangster)" where a Soul group takes on the studio-gangster image presented mostly in Hip-Hop and attempts to paint the autobiography of a day in the life of such an artist.

Overall, I like what this album does to push the boundaries of Soul music and at their best this duo is a compelling one. Towards the end of this album there are tracks that I wish would have remained instrumentals since the vocals don't add much while the remix of "Mr. Mister" fails to be more interesting than the original. Yet there is a lot to recommend on this album and for Soul music fans not afraid of some moderate experimentation into the realms of Electronic music (albeit very "Souled Out") this is worth a listen.

Disc 2

...well now. As I said before, to me this album is the B-Sides package. When the tempo slows down, the beats lose their appeal. And why are they rapping on the second album? It doesn't add anything to the formula and makes them a different group. It just doesn't work.

That said, there are two excellent songs on the second disc. Both of these are uptempo, practically Dance-music affairs. There is the "Outkast-ish" "Valley of Love" and the ironically named "Slow" (because it isn't slow).

As for the rest? It was too far of a departure from the good done on Disc 1.

Summary

Electronic Soul is a good thing when it is excellently done. Disc 1 of this compilation does that in spades. Consider Disc 2 a bonus.

3.783 out of 5

Track Ratings

1. Divisions of Joy (01:51) 3
2. Mr. Mister (04:23) 4
3. Everybody Touch It (04:11) 4
4. Private Parts (05:46) 4
5. No More (06:31) 5
6. Camera (Gangsta) (03:32) 4
7. Might as Well (04:44) 3
8. Cowboys & Indians (05:06) 3
9. Enterception (05:17) 4
10. Mr. Mister (Future Screw remix) (04:05) 4
11. Hi Sun (02:45) 3
12. sLAyers (feat. Bleu Collar, Diz Gibran & Pacific Division) (04:45) 3
13. Rock the Dancehall (feat. Kardinal Offishall) (04:08) 3
14. Hi's & Lo's (feat. Niki) (04:00) 3
15. Lil Big Heads (Feat. ?uestlove) (03:04) 4
16. Thick (interlude) (01:42) 5
17. Valley of Love (03:39) 5
18. Just Because (feat. Phonte) (05:47) 5
19. Venus 2 Mars (01:57) 3
20. Lalalaland (feat. Elucid) (02:59) 3
21. No More (live @ the Temple Bar 5.12.2008) (04:42) 3
22. Finer Things ("Boss'n Up") (05:24) 4
23. Slooow (04:24) 5