Otis Junior & Dr. Dundiff are Way More than Cool with new Album
Evan Dale // Dec 13, 2018
If it’s all about balance, Otis Junior & Dr. Dundiff are the steadiest around. At a cultural moment when internal production-vocalist collaborations are starting to become the norm, their collaborative efforts are acting blueprint for any and all. Amongst several similar team setups like Sonder – built of Brent Faiyaz, Dpat, and Atu – dvsn – the collabortive falsetto masterpiece between vocalist Daniel Daley and keyboardist/producer, Nineteen85 – and Abhi // Dijon – who have been more focused on solo work of late but were one of the original collaborations stemming from R&B and neo-soul – Otis Junior & Dr. Dundiff are also the most consistent.
For those new to the criminally underrated duo, their story is one of intrigue. Otis Junior met Dr. Dundiff, a local Louisville producer who had already released several projects of his own, when he was hosting an open-mic R&B competition in 2016. Instantly, the two developed a creative bond and within a month, found themselves recording their debut EP, 1moment2another. Now, at the end of 2018, their third full-length project in as many years, Coolis here to prove that partnerships can last when that perfect balance is struck.
Like most works of art stemming from multiple minds, Cool is a difficult product to put a label on. Though its heart is certainly grounded in neo-soul, contemporary jazz, and the more wholesome edges of the R&B spectrum, its nature knows no epochal or stylistic frame. A growth and continuation in the vocal delivery of Otis Junior sees his deep, silky range we once described as fitting somewhere between his common named Otis Redding and a more modern take on the soulful styling of the Motown elite becomes enveloped by an even wider slide. In equal measure, Dr. Dundiff whose affinity for jazz and mellow funk has never wavered, finds himself likewise reaching a new experimental push without losing his comfortable sense of simplicity and timeless technique.
En route to Cool’s release, Otis Junior & Dr. Dundiff dropped only one pair of leading singles: Need to Know, which came coupled with a fun-loving video of mild do-badedness on November 9 and Waiting on You, a bouncy, soulful tune which even though came out two weeks post, has since become an early crowd favorite from the album. But even with the early success of the two leading tracks, nothing is left to be desired by the rest of Cool.
Appropriately titled, it’s driven by both artists’ effortless sense of cool, where meditative and groovy melodies built upon a mixed house of analogue and digital instrumentation coalesce to drive forward an impossibly laid-back emotional scale. Just take one (or six) listens to In the Dark and let its calm and collected cool waft over you and mellow any nerves that may be distracting from the important things. That being said, In the Dark is no exception from the rest of Cool, but rather an easy example. They’re all auditory muscle relaxers.
If a standout track does exist and must be pulled from the rest of its incredibly clean surroundings, it’s Poems. Not only does the song extend towards the romantic corners of Otis Junior’s range where songs like The Ballad and Another Time have in the past become emotionally-evoking favorites, it also brings into the fold the incredibly – you guessed it – well-balanced collaborative vocals of Zlynn Harris. In harmony, the lower, slower tide of Otis Junior’s watery delivery is so perfectly complimented by the higher, more delicate delivery of Zlynn Harris, who in collaboration with any other vocalist, would certainly steal the show. Instead, one of the more perfectly executed duets and romantic ballads in memory is unearthed, fulfilling the emotional desires and slow jam wishes of its listeners.
When it’s all said and done and Cool comes to rest as a whole project, it finds is perfect form. A seemingly long but easy-listening half-hour floats effortlessly by and puts any fan of neo-soul, jazz vocalism, and mellow funk in a trance of creative positivism. For Otis Junior & Dr. Dundiff, Cool feels like their most well-orchestrated project to date, existing as such a wholesome and connected record that it outshines their previous work in that regard. But it’s also just another work in progress, not only from a duo that continues to annually release innovative and epochally unbound works of musical genius, but also for a continuously budding musical approach where one vocalist and one instrumentalist can work together to create something in the sounds and respects of eras past, with methods that could only be used in the present day.
It’s a balance between Otis Junior & Dr. Dundiff; a balance between the old and the new; a balance between the tried and the true, the bold and the effortlessly Cool.