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Devin Morrison’s ‘Dreamsoul Ballads’ is a Synth-Soaked Collision of 90’s Nuance, Fever-Dreamed Muses, and Modern Artistic Range

Evan Dale // April, 9, 2024

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There are many things about Devin Morrison’s music that have – since his debut album, Bussin’ dropped five years ago – transported listeners to another time and another place. Echoing back towards a finely detailed nostalgia for the shiniest of R&B Golden Eras where watery synth strokes, effervescent chimes, and heart-bleeding melodies amalgam to stamp in a foregone time the modernist interpretations of the vocalist, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer, Devin Morrison finds himself uniquely positioned to both torch bear and redefine much of the soulscape’s existing direction. There is something, too, that has subsequently tethered his work most ardently to discourse in orbit of romance above all else.

Fittingly, his sophomore collection drills deeper into his signature spaces, hollowing out a corner of the current Neo-Soul spectrum where seemingly only he – at least these days – is capable of going. Sent here from a time machine; sent by way of Orlando, Tokyo, and LA; he presents Dreamsoul Ballads.

The King of Dreamsoul – as is noted on his bandcamp – is also the father of it for his generation. There are few if any artists today that infuse their aesthetic with as much 90’s reminiscence, although names like VanJess, Joyce Wrice, and Lucky Daye certainly call back to another era in their own ways. And yet, Devin Morrison effortlessly makes it feel defiantly modern and reworked. Picking up the pieces for an unfinished story, he carries into modernity and beyond that which made the Golden Era worthy of its moniker in the first place, while bending it to his own will. It’s timeless, even while so rooted in particular recollection. It’s trailblazing, even while expanding upon what was heard as experimental decades ago. It’s refreshing, especially as the existing soulscape – albeit in its own Golden Era of sorts – harkens back not enough to one of its most keystone spans. It’s necessary, to push the boundaries from where to draw inspiration, and draws a blueprint for how influence can be reimagined as times and technology evolve.

Dreamsoul Ballads is a thematically conceptual exploration of female characters he’s imagined. None without the kind of creative names that can so seamlessly be crooned into melodic existence, Devin Morrison utilizes the concept to build his worlds and tell their stories. Dynamically writing to life heroines and rogues alike from Anita Valentine and Veronica Flair to Sarah Sahara and Mika Bambi, he is able to fill the pages of his short stories into the chapters of his overarching second volume. How deeply imaginative that is. The scope of songwriting itself feels reminiscent as well, towards a time where lyricism was a tad more fantastic and unexpected, and that is exceedingly rare today.

Dreamsoul Ballads is musically nearly a concept in and of itself. As was Bussin’, if for no other reason than the at-this-point probably over detailed nostalgia of his aesthetic, it should be noted that Devin Morrison’s music is not kitsch. It would be easy for any artist so thoroughly invoking the sounds and sophistications of another era to teeter on a subsistence as a retro-crowing cover specialist. But for Morrison, who is often wielding multiple synths, fever-dreaming about murderous muses in Tokyo, and merging those two truths into some sort of reimagined homage to the only soundscape in recent memory hat could hold his imaginative breadth, he would have been unique even surrounded by his influences in the 90’s.

Much of that is undoubtedly thanks to the range of his skillset. A literal student of music, and an unyielding practitioner of its continued evolution, Devin Morrison has, since 2022, released a succession of eleven retro-nuanced instrumental EP’s titled the Dream Lobby volumes. His tireless work to constantly create has allowed him to so uniquely construct his own reconstructed vision of R&B’s most timeless nostalgia, into something ultimately independent of its roots. And that severity of dedication to his craft mirrors the immense detail with which he tells his stories.

Depth is the adjective. Layers of influence, of keystrokes, of character development define Dreamsoul Ballads as an exploration of era, of epoch, of style, and of storytelling – all of which without the emergence of Devin Morrison would be deeply lacking across the modern soulscape, especially the corner of it where the ethereal and dreamy thrive.

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