Posted on July 23rd, 2015 (3:00 pm) by George Pike

Artists often like to get creative with genre descriptions. This year, we’ve had "stoner glam," "Tumblr glitch pop" and simply "meditation." So it’s hard to take Seven Davis Jr. seriously when he, like many others, anoints himself with a label like “Electronic Future Soul.” That description probably gets you thinking what, exactly, he means; maybe Seven adds a little soul to the future house formula? But Universes, Davis’ first true album (Vol. 1 being more compilation than concept), is so much more than that. It is the universe, and it’s at least some kind of future.

Seven starts this interstellar journey with some characteristic immediacy. A cheesy, computer-generated voice rattles out, “we are here, Seven,” and a surprisingly effective, if somewhat quixotic narrative begins. These little blots of storytelling are interspersed through the record, mixing perfectly with Seven’s peculiar, but certainly signature style. That style filters through a number of takes, though it tends to lean on the repetitive and hypnotic. Repetition is often cited as an inherently negative thing, but Seven makes a strong case against that; much of the best Universes has to offer is found in tracks that keep things going just a little too long for comfort, taking what Ninja Tune label-mate Lee Bannon does with atmospherics and translating it to an equally uncommon, but entirely different sonic construction.

The collision of the two gives the impression of an outsider looking in. Spasmodic composition, heavily effected instrumentals, and excellent mixing that defines each instrument precisely when need be, but isn’t afraid to favor texture over clarity, make for an otherworldly gaze into the mind of Seven. The success of that structure offers his story the chance to transcend its surface absurdity; it’s easy for high-concept ideas, especially in the realm of sci-fi, to be written off as hokey or ham-handed, but Universes deftly evades this with a combination of excellent songwriting and a theme grounded in realism. The story of a spacefarer making commentary and bringing a message to unaware earthlings, especially one so positive and straightforward, is clearly a stand in for Seven’s own thoughts and experiences. That’s not analysis; he came out and said it, at least about “Fighters.”

But it’s hard not to think of the whole album like that, iterated best at the end of that track but resonating throughout: “Why do humans fight?” It’s the kind of fortune-cookie philosophy that would in any other circumstance be too cliché to appreciate, but is here self-aware enough to be something more. Through its cheesiness and the oddity of its premise, Universes uses camp to directly confront the idea that simple questions and simple answers can’t be posed, arguing against the jaded scoff that there must be something deeper or more “meaningful,” at least if meaning is measured in word count or complexity of verbiage. There’s something kind of brilliant about that, don’t you think?

Track List:

  1. Imagination
  2. Freedom
  3. Sunday Morning
  4. Everybody Too Cool
  5. Karma
  6. Try Me (I’ll Funk You)
  7. Options
  8. Good Vibes (feat. Julio Bashmore)
  9. Luv
  10. Be A Man (feat. fLako)
  11. Fighters
  12. Honestly
  13. Afterlife (feat. Kutmah)
  14. No Worries
  15. Welcome Back
  16. Universes
Seven Davis Jr. - Universes
Purchase at: Amazon | eMusic

Our Rating

75 / 100
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