The stage has been set perfectly. Since releasing their debut album, Sept 5th, DVSN has carefully pulled back the curtain on their secrecy leaving us with jagged-edged puzzle pieces with no clear picture. The mystery surrounding their follow up album, Morning After, was steep, but a steady stream of singles accumulated plenty of hype. We know their names: Devin Daley, Nineteen85, née Paul Jefferies. The former being the signature falsetto that has become synonymous with the DVSN brand. Paul Jefferies, on the other hand, is the man behind the boards. Jefferies is responsible for filling in the gaps of DVSN’s music with the wistful essence that has earned them acclaim amongst some of the 90’s most titanic R&B artists; namely, Maxwell, who happens to be flipped on one of Morning After’s singles, P.O.V. With both artists bringing their best foot forward, Morning After is both intricate and grandiose.
The album does not begin where Sept 5th left off. Instead of drawing from their well of sparsely rhythmic deep cuts such as Angela from their former LP, DVSN sets a fast pace. Daley enters stage right on the album’s intro, Run Away, with a declarative belt that perfectly sets the tone. “Be strong,” Daley echoes. It’s unclear if he’s advising himself, an unnamed lover or the audience. While Run Away sounds heavily inspired by Michael Jackson, Jefferies’ heavy basses and orchestral production adds a unique tinge that would excite the late performer. A swell of modern R&B is heard on tracks such as Don’t Choose, Claim & Nuh Time/Take Time. This modern touch is the heart of Morning After, keeping the album from falling into monotony and constantly pulsating with 808s and hi-hats. There’s more confidence in Daley’s delivery and ultimately it is this modern embrace that keeps Morning After from simply being a sequel to their debut album. That being said there is no shortage of heavily melodic ballads. The penultimate track, Body Smile, is a somber, apologetic, 80s-esque ballad with sparkling synths highlighting Jefferies’s diversity and reverence for the classics. This is a track you play in the car with your future family, stating “they don’t know nothing about this”.
Like Sept. 5th, there is a blend of the old with the new. The main difference this time, however, is that what’s new is also what allows the duo to find their footing in unmanned territory. DVSN has found great success is transporting listeners back to the neo-soul era of the 90s but on Morning After Daley and Jefferies solidify their own soundscape befitting of an indie, albeit, ambitious movie. With a rollout resembling the release of a foreign film, the influence is clear, you can read their interview where they explain this, but make no mistake this album is uniquely their own. Morning After as an objective album, however, is not perfect. It can sound boring. And, to the unfamiliar, the album can drag on. R&B is definitely an acquired taste, especially the pure stuff that is of the DVSN variety. Often characterized as being too much of a monolith focusing on love, and love loss, the genre can definitely make some uncomfortable. If you do however find that your ear has been trained and is well versed on the style of rhythm and blues then in Morning After you’ll find one of, if not, the best R&B releases of 2017.
Article written by: Xavier Mattison.
Xavier Mattison is a guest writer for Voice Magazine. He is a member of the organization National Association of Black Journalists or NABJ.