January 9, 2014

Max Bell lives for the funk and dies for the funk.

Seven is the name George Costanza ostensibly wanted for his first child. I don’t think L.A. based singer and producer Seven Davis Jr.’s parents were big fans of Mickey Mantle or Seinfeld, but I won’t rule it out until I can ask him and check his Houston birth certificate for myself.

Anyway, over the last year Seven Davis Jr. has quietly released some of the most interesting and engaging, genre-defying funk and soul Bandcamp has to offer. With no high-budget music videos — or really any music videos at all — or aggressive PR campaign, he’s flown relatively under the radar. However, Davis Jr. isn’t just another developing young talent. He’s emerged a fully formed artist, one who synthesizes and distills his influences with a synthesizer and a back pocket full of house.

His 2012 record, Lo-Fi Vent-Age, sounds like an amalgam of beat scene producers crossed with Dam-Funk — Low End Theory and Funkmosphere in the same packed, smoky, sweaty building. Synths combine with fuzzy, funky glitch and smatterings of house. There are few vocals, and those that do appear are submerged in the sonic vortex. Still, hints of Jr.’s indebtedness to Prince are there. For reference, check out the interstellar bump of “Kid Icarus.” If Davis Jr. really does find a way to “touch the sun,” I hope he records an album dedicated to the process.

One EP, which Davis Jr. dropped in October of last year, is his most complete work yet. The title track rightfully made number 11 on Spin’s “50 Best Dance Tracks of 2013.” “One” is just under seven minutes of R&B set to the tune of thumping, driving house seen through George Clinton’s day-glo glasses. Additionally, the track displays Davis Jr.’s gift as a songwriter: “For so long I’ve been dreaming/ both in the day in the nighttime/ about that unconditional/connection to the soul.”

Though it should go without saying, the rest of the EP is also worth your precious time. Whether it’s the smooth yet spiteful break-up anthem that is “Breaker” or the subdued, swirling of soul of “Leave a Message,” there’s not denying Davis Jr.’s ability to craft funk for the footwork-inclined.

Released on Kutmah’s IZWID imprint in November 2013, The Lost Tapes Vol. 1 finds a younger, drug-addled and depressed Davis Jr. Now that these tracks have been liberated from storage, it’s evident that some damn good music came out of that painful, mind-altered state.

“I Don’t Give Fuck” sounds like an addict telling off those trying to intervene. It’s sleazy, grimy, and spaced out, like shag carpet stained by broken lava lamps and littered with the narcotics paraphernalia of your choice. “Words” is also one of the best modern funk songs I’ve heard of late and it needs video treatment immediately. That said, “Sorry” and “Thoughts for You” might be a little too frenetic and cacophonous for some. And while Davis Jr. was allegedly told he’d go to hell for “Pornostar,” I don’t see anything wrong with this slow, sultry baby making music backed by flutes and electronic clip and hiss.

Originally denied by labels, The Lost Tapes Vol. 1 might be proof that Davis Jr. was ahead of his time before he’d even had one. These songs, listened to on their own or next to his more current material, speak to the breadth and potential of his musical abilities.

 “Controversy” is Davis Jr.’s latest,  and somehow I doubt it’s the only Prince cover he’s recorded. Covering and cutting in half what is arguably one of the greatest songs from Prince’s catalogue is ambitious, to say the least. But Davis Jr. manages to make it his own, trading in the sprawling, expansive groove of the original for his brand of compacted, down tempo, funkified house. I’d be lying if I say I didn’t prefer the original. But if I were a DJ, I’d definitely work Davis Jr.’s cover into my set.

Seven Davis Jr.’s next IZWID project, The Feel High Experience, will supposedly find him playing a character, like 3 Stacks did on The Love Below. He’s described it as “experimental hip hop soul,” and I can’t wait to hear what his version of that sounds like. Until then, I’ll be “feeling” high to the jams he’s already given us.

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