Video Roundup: Lee Fields & The Expressions, Devereaux, VYIE
It’s been a while since we put together one of these; we were just waiting for the right material. Which is to say, we were waiting for Lee Fields. The NC-bred soul singer is a reliable source for compelling material. Faithful Man, released in March by Truth & Soul Records, gave us an early jolt of old-school soul. The Gospel-reared, proto-funk groove is an ideal vehicle for Fields’ no-worse-for-the-wear vocal. Like Sharon Jones and Charles Bradley, Fields’ late-career resurgence hardly feels like a nostalgia trip. From Daptone Records’ consistently fine output to Adele’s soul-stung 2011 chart-takeover, retro-R&B revisions are more than welcome in contemporary airspace. But, as it should be, the truly compelling element in Fields’ music is his voice, a dynamic, expressive instrument capable of honeyed croons and — as in Faithful Man‘s title track — raw, ragged emotion, tortured by temptation. A new classic.
If Lee Fields’ spot-on soul hits the purist’s pleasure center, Columbia’s Devereaux will be a shock to the system. The mostly-instrumental solo project of ex-Death Becomes Even The Maiden guitarist W. Heyward Sims, Devereaux is a pop-clash of post-punk throb, post-rock expanse, EDM repetition and synth-pop gloss. “NYXT” — cut from Devereaux’s Cacti Pace EP, which sees national release via Post-Echo Oct. 2 — manages to mingle Holy Fuck’s tape-looper funk with New Order pulse with The Faint’s indie-goes-80s disco-melt with Trans Am’s motorik post-rocking. It’s fitting then that its video is similarly constructed from disparate elements. Call it house-party massacre: Swimsuit clad babes turn a dance party into a death-trip with shocks of VHS nostalgia, Giallo surrealism, early-MTV garishness and Instagrammy effects. Sign O’ the Retromaniacal Times.
Janey Criss and Jessi Monroe, known collectively as VYIE, offer “Abuse You,” as an audiovisual standalone, not to be released on any album. It’s a gliding ambient soundscape that might run placid if it weren’t punctuated by low-end squelch and throb that gives it an interesting murk, breaking the airy lightness with something more foreboding. The visual component, a collage of distorted scenes spliced into disjointed images seems apt for the duo’s abstract, meandering arrangement. It’s about as far from the organic, sweat-and-tears R&B we started with, but as “Abuse You” moves along its duration, adding distant, reverb-obscured vocals, the distance shrinks, if only slightly.
—Bryan C. Reed