dvsn's 'A Muse In Her Feelings' | A Juxtaposing Display of the R&B Duo's Duality
Evan Dale // April 19, 2020
In a sonic dimension framed by synths bubbling out from a Nintendo-64 water map and vocals descending from a brothel of Heaven’s Red-Light District, thrives the always harmonious, yet eternally in conflict soundscape of future R&B duo, dvsn. They thrive on juxtaposition. They have since the release of their 2016 debut, September 5th. And with each subsequent album: Morning After and now A Muse In Her Feelings, their reach has grown, as have their creative risk taking. But unlike most R&B powerhouses that gain widespread following and acclaim, dvsn have never given into fame as reward for a watered-down product. Instead, with the watery synths holding it down, dvsn start off A Muse In Her Feelings right where they’ve left off with each of their canon’s releases: in the messy sheets of a messier relationship.
Through the following hour, it’s more of the same. More detailed sexual encounters; More fuzzily decanted delirium; More perfectly orchestrated composition from the producer half of the duo, Nineteen85; More silky vocal runs and crystalline falsettos from front man, Daniel Daley. And yet, with A Muse In Her Feelings, even when compared against dvsn’s existing body of work, more of the same, more than anything means more of what hasn’t been done before.
The two are boundary breakers, folding what was once held in the specific boxes of genre into what is possible in a digital world that sees the idea of genre altogether fading into history. Though the passionate romance, vocal exhibition, and productive direction of nearly everything dvsn does can be attributed to the wide range of Rhythm & Blues through its lifespan, the entire scope of R&B is a broad field from which to source; In which to experiment.
In contrast of one another, the two points on each side of dvsn’s dividing line create within that boundless space using two very different strategies. Nineteen85 lays the foundations of by exploring decades of R&B, soul, funk, hip-hop, and electronic epochs with his production. From track to track, bold beats rooted only in the overarching direction of where once stood R&B make A Muse In Her Feelings an album marked by risk-taking, trial courage and stark changes of stylistic pace. Daniel Daley moves in the opposite direction by moving only within the established range in his vocalism, cemented through a half-decade of always untouchable notes; moving within the established lane of his lyricism, cemented through pillow-talking spells and erotic poetry. As the underlying hero of dvsn serpents his way around the edges of the album, forming its shape, its straight-lined and tied akin by dvsn’s crooning protagonist. Harmony in contrast is dvsn’s winning formula and is on stronger display with A Muse In Her Feelings than ever before.
To pull even more opposing yet tethering elements into play, dvsn also source from incredibly sought-after talent. From Toronto and its Jamaican roots to the subsequent merging of R&B and dancehall, A Muse In Her Feelings is dvsn’s first study of lanes existing outside of R&B and adjacent hip-hop where they’re expected to populate. The inclusions of Popcaan & Buju Banton in combination with Dancehall-born production on Dangerous City & So What amalgamate into a timely, expected, and appropriate move that continues exploring the relationship between the cultural envelopes of Toronto and Kingston; and also follows in the footsteps of fellow Toronto R&B standout, Daniel Caesar with international merged R&B-Dancehall hit, Cyanide.
In fact, if ever there are other moments during A Muse In Her Feelings that feel most differentiated from anything dvsn have done before, they come as part of that same stretch. Following Dangerous City & So What in sequence, Outlandish & Keep It Going remove themselves from the entire canonical dvsn experience by diving into an R&B-forward bit of house experimentation, flexing Nineteen85’s productive range and prowess more than ever. If anything, the two tracks pay homage to fellow Caribbean-Canadian Tropical House-R&B transcendentalist, KAYTRANADA, and his 2019 masterpiece, BUBBA.
The additional presences of Jessie Reyez, Ty Dolla $ign, Summer Walker, Snoh Aalegra, and OVO friends and collaborators, Future & Shantel May are welcomed and expected, bringing in their own flare and takes on R&B adjacencies.
Through and through, A Muse In Her Feelings fits the bill for a moment in R&B and further, musical history at large, where transcendence and experimentation are held at highest regards. It’s their most risk-taking work to date, highlighting the stark contrast in their roots as a group and themselves as individualistic artists. To wit, A Muse In Her Feelings succeeds most in its internal conflict – an internal conflict between the two stylistic directions of a duo that aims to always explore at depth the conflict of romantic relationships, sex, and the individual realm of feelings.