Between the anonymity, and the smooth 90’s R&B sound, at first dvsn seemed like just another part of the ongoing OVOSound branding assault. However, the moment one hears their sound, it becomes apparent the band is something else entirely. dvsn aren’t content to just make sexy jams (although they certainly can do that), but instead seek to make music with real, honest feeling, and it’s a refreshing change from the increasingly misanthropic styles dominating R&B of late.
Nineteen85 produced both Hotline Bling and Hold On, We’re Going Home, so his ability to create cool, minimalist R&B was never in question. As such, the beats on Sept. 5th sound incredibly smooth, all warm pads and pointed drums. The way the hi-hat on Hallucinations descends from a mosquito buzz to a deep thump every 8 bars is a thing of economical beauty, artfully eschewing the need for fills or transitions. However, whilst the production is wonderful, it’s singer Daniel Daley that is the real star of Sept. 5th. Ever since the release of The Line, his voice has been revelatory, and that continues apace on this album.
Do It Well sees Daley singing about regularly attending a strip-show, and saying it’s “the only therapy I know”. It could easily be a clumsy metaphor, but Daley keeps the lyrics simple and specific, and sings with such passion and feeling that it’s easy to buy into his fantasy. The aforementioned Hallucinations is a standout track, both in terms of quality and theme. Whilst most of the album concerns itself with sex and lust, the track chronicles Daley laying awake at night, imagining his ex-lover. However, Nineteen85’s organs imbue the track with grandiosity, and Daley sings with such a dramatic verve – “you, you, fall asleep and dream of / you, you, late at night I scream for” – that the track becomes profoundly moving. The high notes in the chorus feel musically euphoric, but emotionally draining, and the combination is invigorating.
Try/Effortless is another very strong track, seeing Daley have an epiphany after meeting a woman who “make(s) me feel some kind of way”. The track is darker than the others, with a synth arpeggio bubbling under Daley’s vocals, and pitched-down voices repeating lyrics in the chorus. Then, in the Effortless half of the track, the beat becomes more industrial, and ethereal pads circle the mix. He sings about the way his paramour carries herself – “when you walk up in the room, people staring at you” – but the distinct physicality of the beat makes the track feel very intimate. The only real misstep on the album is the title track, Sept. 5th. The distorted banjo led beat is intriguing, and the siren wails in the chorus are suitably dramatic, but Daley’s lyrics just come off as lurid – “I could make it better / if I could have sex with you”. None of the lyrics on the album are anything approaching subtle, but the track feels like a step too far.
The album finishes the same way dvsn started, with The Line. The track remains as stunning as when it debuted, a masterpiece of smouldering R&B. At 7 minutes long, the song is largely formless, built around a repeating vocal refrain, and solemn piano. Daley’s lyrics are simple and elemental – “I wanna know who to trust if it isn’t you” – and his voice aches with emotion. It’s the ultimate slow-burn love song, and it demonstrates everything that makes dvsn stand out from the rest of the OVOSound roster. Where some artists play it cool and keep their music minimal, Daley and Nineteen85 shoot for maximum emotion in every track, and the effect is electrifying.