In the thick of an ongoing R&B renaissance peppered with success stories from Frank Ocean, FKA Twigs and The Weeknd, Toronto-hailed and OVO Sound duo dvsn can count themselves as a rhetoric for artfully balancing intimate tendencies with the trendy dark caverns of the genre. The combination isn’t so much about consciously being different as it is about demonstrating faithfulness to R&B elements that, at least in the last few years, appeared near forgotten.
On dvsn’s debut album Sept. 5th, trap drums and dripping falsettos guide the eq14ually emotive and physical narrative on sex and relationships. Plainly presented in polished late 90s/early 2000s-inspired slow jams, the simplicity can easily fly by a lot of listeners’ ears on record. When it came to the live debut of the local duo at The Mod Club, two sold out events concluding their first headlining tour, that same simplicity stood taller than it does on the album itself, but plays out with a greater appeal.
Attribute that to singer Daniel Daley. As masterfully dynamic as he is on record, Daley enriched his own vocal performances to the point that forces a reexamination and a new appreciation of what he and principle producer Nineteen85 (notably absent on-stage) set out to share on Sept 5th. With the assistance of a trio of singers to realize the female backtracks on songs like “Too Deep” and Drake’s “Faithful”, Daley confidently took the reigns as the album faded in and out song-to-song, showcasing the ethereal essence amongst the fine lines.
Although it seems like most OVO Sound-signees develop quick followings thanks to the Drake-approval stamp, dvsn has hit an updated nostalgia spot that brought both the devoted and newcomer fans into the fold quickly. Couples and crews moved in a way that can be likened to human shock absorption as they took in dvsn’s early releases “The Line” and “With Me”, willingly joining in on “Another One” as Daley went off-the-book on the chorus to add higher crescendos. Yet, the most convincing moment came when Daley transitioned into a two-punch cover of Prince’s “Purple Reign” and Aaliyah’s “One in a Million”, presenting a clear vision of how dvsn’s grasp on the soul of R&B aligns with the genre kings and queens rather than how it overtakes the monarchical structure.
If their shows at The Mod Club are any indication, dvsn’s ride alongside the curve of their launch poses little risk. The smooth handling and wide embrace of their live debut in their home, a city bubbling with talents like Daniel Caesar, Jahkoy and Tory Lanez, came with no marked hiccups. Joining Drake and Future on the Summer Sixteen tour later this month, it will come as no surprise when stadiums are overtaken by the oddly warm chill of “Hallucinations”; just make sure you can say you saw it coming first.