Saturday, March 4, 2017

Seven Davis, Jr. - Universes

Ninja Tune: 2015

The man comes from Texas, currently makes his home in California, released his first single on a print from Atlanta, and is apparently rather popular in Europe. And yet, when I hear Seven Davis Jr., I can’t help but think Detroit. Part of that is undoubtedly the fact his debut single, One, was something of a hit in the Motor City. No surprise there, the tune featuring a bumpin’ groove while oozing all sorts of soul throughout. The other tracks from there, Breaker and All Kinds, follow suite, getting tougher in their tech-house groove without ever losing their funk. It’s the sort of sound that’d have Moodymann boppin’ his head, and few things scream ‘Detroit soul-house’ like Kenny Dixon Jr. Secondly, Mr. Davis has his eyes on future-funk, showing little fear in letting some sci-fi soul into his works – even his adopted pseudonym comes off a tad geeky (numbers are, like, math an’ shit, yo’).

Having such a hit with his first at-bat attempt may seem like a wonderkid at work, but Seven Davis Jr. had been toiling away in the underground for a while before releasing One. With a background in gospel, he could have had a record deal much earlier, but instead decided biding his time was the smarter move, honing his craft ghostwriting for other musicians, making sure he was at the peak of his potential when he finally went solo. The success of One and follow-up P.A.R.T.Y. proved his planning fruitful, and in quick order, Seven Davis Jr. had plenty of momentum building to a full-length album. Always eagerly reaching into the trendy urban underground, Ninja Tune backed his ventures into the domain of debut LPs, Universes the result. Gotta’ keep that futurism theme goin’.

He doesn’t waste time in letting you know you’re in for a woozy ride either, opener Imagination a brief, simmering slice of druggy soul. A short skit of a starship computer awakening Seven from cryosleep for a gig (my interpretation), and we’re off on the shimmering ride of bright synths, peppy rhythms, and chipper techno of Freedom – Detroit future-funland funk lives! In fact, Universes is an incredibly ‘happy’ album throughout, tracks like Good Vibes, Sunday Morning, Be A Man, and No Worries rather light in mood compared to his early singles. Heck, Everybody Too Cool is practically taking the piss out of the ‘techno-funk are serious musics’ scene, all the while gleefully indulging in his Prince influences. And I swear that beat is sampled from the opening drums from Mississippi Queen!

Mr. Davis Jr. does offer us a few glimpses of his thoughtful side, getting deeper into the neo-soul with Fighters and Welcome Back. And if you were craving more of the tough, deep house tunes, Sunday Morning does come correct there. A bonus CD also includes more instrumental pieces exploring the fringes of future-funk, Dimensions almost coming off like a long-lost Amon Tobin cut with its liberal use of the Amen Break. Ah, that’s why Ninja Tune tapped him!


ACE TRACKS:
Sunday Morning
No Worries
Dimensions

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