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A genre chameleon, Jesse Davidson nails it on Lizard Boy

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Oscar Wilde once said that “With age comes wisdom, but sometimes age comes alone”. But for the youthful Jesse Davidson, wisdom seems to have a head start. Shortlisted by triple J unearthed as a finalist in 2012 while he was still at high school, Davidson’s debut EP, Ocean, was released a mere two years later in 2014.

Not that you necessarily need to be any kind of sage to achieve either of these (musical talent is probably more important), but Davidson’s music has drawn comment since his arrival on the scene, often relating to the maturity of his sound.

Jesse Davidson Lizard Boy

Jesse Davidson sheds his skin and bares all on his sophomore EP Lizard Boy, a genre spanning release that shows off his enviable talent.

Approaching his writing from a traditional singer-songwriter position, Davidson’s songs have always held an electronic, ambient edge. And recent months have seen him close in on this genre spanning style with the release of his sophomore EP, Lizard Boy. A five track offering which shifts and transcends both musically and lyrically. Still grounded in the narrative lyric that is the domain of the singer-songwriter, the architecture of the songs have an experimental feel in their sparsity and instrumentation.

Full of lingering, wobbling synths and punctuated chords set against vaguely industrial beats, Lizard Boy echoes a similar ambience to outfits like Boards Of Canada. Though the term sometimes applied to those same artists, “IDM” (Intelligent Dance Music) has been criticised as derogatory in the past, taken at face value it feels like a good fit for Davidson’s style. Working with the elements that feed dance music; synths, beats and electronica, the whole exudes a tangible sense of a smart, considered approach in both the writing and the execution.

Opening with the slow groove Laika, the track perfectly introduces the delicate and skilful soundscapes that Davidson proves himself so adept at. A skittering drum beat injects the groove into the dreamy, synth heavy song. Double tracked vocals up the ambience, and diving straight in on this first track, finishes on a blissed out and jazz inspired drum solo. In his own words, Davidson describes the track as “A bloody jam”, and while it certainly has that vibe, it’s possibly the best executed jam I’ve come across recently.

Following track, Darling, dives a little deeper into experimentation. Started with the idea of writing a track entirely around a bass line, Davidson was interested in how “A lack of guitars and keys and other instruments like that could change the composition of a song and create a lot of space for the vocals.” These elements appear later, but judiciously placed as accents rather than key melodies.

Describing Chapel Choir as his most folky song on the EP, the vocal line is perhaps more of a straight melody compared with other tracks but there is a really sparse feel that has nothing to do with traditional folk.  With a kind of lo-fi, soulful feel to his vocals, this track is perhaps a simple bit of breathing space in amongst Davidson’s more esoteric moments.

One aspect of Davidson’s composition that resonates much more with electronica than folk, is the detached feel within his songs. However Lagoon stands out with a much more affecting sensibility; dipping his vocal deeper on the refrain, the chorus line “I know you’re trying to change too much right now” becomes an accent outside of the ambience. Final track Will You Find Me touches on some of this same emotion, with Davidson describing it as “The cheesy ballad with a big release at the end.”

But he still maintains that he’s “Quite fond of it though, despite its cheesiness and simple structure and what-not.” Cheesy is not exactly the term that comes to mind as a stripped back electric guitar strums through with a subdued, almost grunge-like feel. And the release at the end has more of a blissed out build, with swirling cosmic effects and big beats to usher in an almost psychedelic feel.

Having recorded the EP in London, at Lightship 95 – which bears a striking resemblance to The Boat That Rocked – perhaps the sixties influence permeated Will You Find Me? With it’s cavernous studios inside the boat’s interior, and set on the tidal Thames, there is an ebb and flow to Lizard Boy that echoes the inevitable rise and fall of the studios.

For Jesse Davidson it seems that age dragged in its clever counterpart pretty early on, as Lizard Boy holds a maturity and confidence well beyond his years. After a successful year, with collaborations with Japanese Wallpaper and Luke Million as well as his new release, Davidson is currently touring nationally, through to December with headline shows in Sydney and Brisbane. You can also catch him at this year’s Falls Festival in Byron Bay.

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November 17, 2015