Dance Tracks of the Week: Seven Davis Jr. Will Funk Up Your World
Plus: New records from Recloose, A Taut Line, and Juxta Position, a.k.a. Marquis Hawkes
Seven Davis Jr., “Controversy” (IZWID)
Back in August, NPR’s Sami Yenigun proclaimed that “One,” by the Los Angeles-based, Houston-born musician Seven Davis Jr., was his summer jam and “should be everybody’s late summer jam.” Here on the cusp of winter, swap out the season and his assertion continues to hold up. One, released by Northern Virginia’s fledgling Must Have Records, is a uniter, bringing together gumsoled house beats and sticky, woozy funk into a common tongue. The title track recalls Detroit house producers like Recloose and Andrés, but the loping, opalescent vibes of tracks like “All Kids” and “Leave a Message,” with their restless bass lines and porous vocal harmonies, also suggest an affinity with Sa-Ra Creative Partners and Dam-Funk, artists pushing funk forward without resorting to house music as the operative framework. The vinyl has been out for a while, but now you can pick up One on Bandcamp, and you should, along with The Lost Tapes Vol. 1, an even weirder, looser collection of lo-fi bedroom funk that’s reminiscent of D’Angelo’s Voodoo if the latter had been recorded with broken Moogs and kitchen utensils on a 4-track cassette. (“I made a lot of this music many years ago and other labels and artists hated on me for it,” said Davis Jr. “They said it was too weird, too different, sounded like drug music (it was) and they told me I was going to hell, for ‘Pornostar.'”)
While you’re on Bandcamp, help yourself to a free download of his version of “Controversy.” It takes some chutzpah to cover Prince, but the purple is clearly strong in this one. Davis’ take is murkier than the original; it’s thick with his gravelly baritone and fuzzy electric bass, and he doesn’t have recourse to Prince’s quicksilver guitar, but he still brings an obsidian shine to the material. Bright synthesizers hint at the ragged gloss that characterizes Prince’s recording, and the whole thing is suffused in faint, metallic shakers that lend a nervous, shimmering sense of motion, like silverfish scuttling through the shadows.
Recloose, It’s Too Late (Delusions of Grandeur)
Speaking of Recloose, the man is back with his first new record in more than a year, once again for London’s Delusions of Grandeur label. Like most everything he’s put out in the past few years, it’s sunny, buoyant stuff; these are party jams, first and foremost. They’re stuffed with funk and soul samples, but also so finessed that it’s hard to believe they’re kluged together from elements scraped out of vinyl grooves. “You Just Love You,” in particular, sounds as polished as the disco it emulates, awash in bright keyboards and flutes and hyperactive filters that nod to Daft Punk’s early days. “It’s Too Late” gives Recloose the chance to show off his shiniest synthesizer patches and sprightliest percussion lines, while “Backtrack” indulges in the duskier, squelchier vibes of his debut album, playing jazzy chords against tightly swung bass and drums that sound a little like Titonton Duvanté’s late-’90s productions. It sounds guileless, optimistic, and totally refreshing.
A Taut Line, Nitriding Portrait (Diskotopia)
A Taut Line is a funny name for Diskotopia head Matt Lyne’s solo project, if only because his debut album is so damned loose, full of roly-poly percussion and viscous samples of uncertain provenance. What kind of music is this, exactly? Half a dozen listens in, and I’m still not entirely sure. “No Prior Depth” sets a half-dozen funk drummers in tandem and piles on Metro Area string vamps, funk bass, and what sounds like an AM radio picking up signals from Africa; “Peripheral” is a ping-pong game at the bottom of a talc mine, its pumping chords and bowed strings all but buried in dust and clatter. Many songs feature a nominally 4/4 beat, but it’s often little more than a guidepost for drum loops that tumble erratically beneath heavy distortion. The bitcrushed drums and omnipresent murk bring to mind Urban Tribe’s The Collapse of Modern Culture; that’s especially true of the opening “Mauna Loa,” with its dubbed-out keyboards and bull-in-a-china-shop rumble. Elsewhere, busted boogie rhythms and tarnished DX chimes profess their allegiance with present-day funk woodshedders like Maxmillion Dunbar and Larry Gus.
Juxta Position, Juxta Position EP (Mistress)
Whoever he is, the anonymous artist behind Juxta Position comes to his new project with considerably less baggage than he’s been lugging around as Marquis Hawkes, which is a relief for everyone, really. The Berlin-based artist titled his first EP after Chicago’s Cabrini Green housing project; a somewhat audacious move for a (seemingly) white dude hailing from the U.K. Between that, ghetto-house-referencing songs like “Get Yo Ass Off My Grass,” and his alias itself, there was an uncomfortable air of minstrelsy to his shtick, no matter how solid the tracks were. (And they were, indeed, solid — moody, muscular, analog-inspired house jams deserving of a better backstory.) With his debut as Juxta Position, there’s a sense of the slate being wiped clean. It helps that this is only the second release on DVS1’s Mistress label, a situation that lets the producer roam as freely as he likes. From the range displayed here, he could have adopted three different aliases and presented the record as a fake compilation, and listeners wouldn’t have been any the wiser. “Mercy” is the simplest and most seductive cut, featuring little more than a plaintive vocal loop (“Have mercy”) over dolorous synthesizers and twanging ride cymbals; it sounds a little like Steffi’s style of bittersweet, wee-hours house. “The Darkness,” on the other hand, is a stern, murky techno cut in the vein of Skudge or Ben Klock that has little use for sentimentalism. “Mazury” is the real revelation: A plucky electro jam that takes its cues from Yellow Magic Orchestra and Boards of Canada, it offers a wealth of gooey analog tones and spring-loaded motion.