What a trip this is. Only very rarely do I chance upon a piece of music that seems to be tugging me both forwards and backwards simultaneously, but I felt like I was spinning out of control the first time I heard this particular tune. There’s so much going on and it’s so intricately produced and executed that it’s like a perfect storm of old school and robot-boogie. It’s that point where you realise that the music you’ve been listening to that you thought was edgy or in somewhat different hasn’t even scratched the enamel on the hood of the world’s biggest truckload full of ideas, and they’re all congealing into a giant lava-lamp ooze inside your eardrums. I was first treated to this gem when the songwriters dropped it into a live set they performed for FBi Radio’s Sunsets program. There’s that awkward moment with live mixes where you’re not sure if the last song has finished or the next one has started; a problem compounded by the fact that ‘the Perfect Blues’ comes off like ten different things at once anyway.
Both Messrs Boykins and X exist on the outer fringes of electronic and R&B music where they’re allowed to make whatever the hell they want in a sporadic, random burst of creativity that is limited neither by genre nor label nor expectation or industry standard. A quick perusal of Boykins’ resume shows that he’s created almost as many records in a short space of time as Oddisee, another rulebreaker we featured recently. Like that DC native (though Boykins hails from Chicago), Boykins doesn’t really limit himself to any area. He sings, he writes, he produces and he dresses better than anyone I’ve ever seen since the heyday of Andre 3000. Earlier today I found a photo of him wearing a full-length, gold lamé dress. What a boss. Fellow free bird MeLo-X hails from Brooklyn and is perhaps most famous for remixing neo-soul giant Maxwell’s last album, which we loved. When D and I saw him in Australia for a record-label launch alongside Star Slinger, the guy spent as much time freestyling and singing over Beastie Boys’ records as he did DJing. People in the crowd got mad; we thought it was fantastic.
So in essence, both of these dudes represent the kind of freedom of expression that really hasn’t had its moment in the sun since the disco-soul-prog-rock freakout that was the seventies. Beholden to nobody, they do what they feel, and what they feel like doing (most of the time) is singing. Boykins especially, who was trained as a jazz singer and actually recruited as an arranger before branching out as a soloist, hits those sweet high notes with absolutely no shame and a pure heart. You can tell when someone’s actually doing it because they love it, not because they think it’s new or hot or interesting. After all, if this was just a shameless retro grab, heading back to Stax or Motown just for the hell of it because it’s easy money, there’s no way they’d have someone as knife’s edge as Machinedrum on both production and remix duties. He takes the slow groove of the original and jacks it up on too much Red Bull; skittering snare polyrhythms across the place, switching up tempos and giving it this really interesting UK garage feel that manages to heighten to passion of the original without diluting it. He’s a gifted producer, for sure, but he’s got great material to work with; even Boykins/MeLo’s backing vocals, which are layered thick in the remix, are exceptional. It’s like walking into a room full of Al Greens with MPCs firing, and if that doesn’t sound appealing to you, I’m not sure we can be friends.
Jesse Boykins III and MeLo-X – ‘The Perfect Blues’ (Machinedrum Remix)