Sensual, vintage R&B is what dvsn delivered on their 2016 debut album, SEPT. 5TH. The Canadian duo, made up of singer Daniel Daley and producer Nineteen85, delivered an enjoyable project, but there was still room for them to blossom into something truly special. The potential was obvious, so hopes were high that their development would continue underneath Drake’s owl eye.
It wasn’t a huge surprise when dvsn mostly disappeared after SEPT. 5TH. Other than an excellent extension of Drake’s “Faithful," very little music surfaced following their debut. Most of the artists on the OVO Sound roster lay low between releases, a quiet camp of talented singer-songwriters and producers who only appear when it’s time to promote the next album. Now, after delivering a few strongsingles, dvsn has finally released their sophomore album, Morning After.
Unlike PARTYNEXTDOOR, who―when he's at his best―fits perfectly in the modern era of alternative, fusion R&B, dvsn is known for creating from a template that extends further into the past. The first surprise of Morning After is how the music has been elevated—close attention was put into each and every one of these records. The thick bassline found on “Run Away” rumbles like a PlayStation controller after a big hit on Madden, not a common association with the OVO duo. The angelic strings, ominous keys, and soulful choir all give the intro a cinematic soundscape.
Morning After isn’t an album trying to live in a sound, but one that creates a compelling environment that’s far richer than where they previously took listeners.
Much more than just a remastered edition of older R&B elements, there’s no singular box in which to store Morning After. dvsn came back wanting to exhibit a broad creative vision that allowed them to continue to carve a unique lane of R&B that knows no limits, and the way Daniel fills the canvas vocally makes each song a layered listening experience.
The relationship woes expressed through "Nuh Time / Tek Time" are wonderfully based in the present, while the title track is a completely outside of dvsn’s traditional realm, an upbeat affair with swinging tribal drums, hypnotic percussion, and serene strings that blossom around the singer as if he were walking through a dreamy field of flowers in Puerto Rico.
It’s musical freedom without being trapped by a formula, and the album flows without any repeated ideas. By matching Daniel's already exquisite vocals with added musicality, Morning After succeeds where SEPT. 5TH fell just short.
The past is still a powerful weapon for dvsn. The Maxwell-sampled “P.O.V.” is a slow and sexy mood-maker, and the way “Fortunate” is chopped and twisted gives it a haunting, gospel vibe. Daniel has mastered the art of illustrating sex like performance art. The kind of sex he depicts is what you’d expect to see in a gallery, not Pornhub. “Mood,” the album's first single, features a beautiful, lust-drenched falsetto by Daley, raising the room temperature without verbally laying a single hand on the woman he’s promising to make time for. “Mood” is the song's title, but you can feel it in the low piano, whispery falsetto, and an electric guitar that's like a bed of roses once it blends into the seductive ocean of music.
dvsn isn't known for hit singles, but “Don’t Choose” has the trampoline-bounce bass and infectious trap drums that are en vogue in 2017. Critically, they're employed by Nineteen85 without feeling like an attempt at only living in the moment, but just one of many new sounds experimented with. “Can’t Wait” is far more uptempo and dance-inspired, reminiscent of something Daft Punk might’ve done during their Random Access Memories days. The newfound fearlessness to emerge from where dvsn was safe is why Morning After will attract a wider range of fans than their debut.
Of course, there’s still room for improvement. Daniel is just now starting to come into his own. As his sound continues to expand I hope his storytelling follows suit. The way he sings of women, love, and heartbreak is refreshing—there’s something pure about his mature outlook. He’s an obvious student of masters like Maxwell and Ginuwine, teachers whose musical influence isn’t as strong amongst many newer acts.
By building a more dynamic and extensively layered album, dvsn make clear through 13 songs that the bubbling potential of their debut has turned into promise realized. Not to be overlooked as just another act on Drake’s expansive OVO roster, the duo is making music for the lovers and friends who need R&B for the nights where the mood needs to be set.
Baby-making, lover-worshipping, quiet storm-musing—Morning After has a song for every matter of the heart.
By Yoh, aka Yohvision, aka @Yoh31