The rhythm and blues genre in 2013 underwent an electronic change. In the hands of artists like Jinbo and Zion.T, R&B elements blended with modern electronic touches of drones, breakbeat, and irregular tempo structures that at first listen were hard to understand. Jinbo’s ode to prolonged fuck sessions, “Cops Come Knock,” included a break that took me several tries to fully grasp what he was doing, something Zion.T echoed in his own song of hedonism, “Doop.”
It was easy to create these soundscapes around the act of sex because going through the motions of sex isn’t melodic or solely expressed in romantic tones; sex is primal and awkward, with stops and starts so often that getting a groove going can be tough.
Amidst all of that pleasure-seeking and electronic experimentation, rookie R&B singer Mayson the Soul went the other extreme on his debut EP, Jackasoul, using a band-based approach in his songs. A journey into mature love, Jackasoul explores love after the nervous energy has dissipated, the space where romantic partners may, or may not, enter a zone of companionate love and comfort.
To tackle this broad, and untouched, topic, Mayson opts for reflection and reminiscence; Mayson looks back to those times when a relationship was new and alive. In songs like “Lost” and “Bus Stop”, ballads both, retrospection is full of sorrow, as if the present and the future won’t be able to match the past or get better.
The band plays softly, letting the notes drag while Mayson lets his voice carry the notes leisurely from one to another. The electric guitar in “Lost” lends a bluesy touch, while the strings in “Bus Stop” are like a whisper-like cry for help. For these two, the journey into mature love was not easy, and its demise is just around the corner.
On the other hand, Mayson the Soul touches on the hopeful side of looking back. On the lead single, “Holiday”, the production has a mid-tempo dance groove with a cool bass lick. The joy in finally finding someone to share your life with is evident in the smooth way Mayson floats along the piano-backed song. As always, Beenzino kills, but its Mayson’s layered vocals at the climax that punctuates that ecstasy.
On the album-ender, “Jackasoul”, that joy is subdued and calm, but no less affecting. Spare production and simple lyrics, it’s the most arresting track I’ve heard in a while. Its length works in its favor rather than against it; by keeping it short, “Jackasoul” is a soft punch to the heart, never lingering too long to make its point. In Mayson’s hands, romantic joy is a comfortable warmth in the winter, rather than a raging fire.
The one thing that ties all of Jackasoul together is the reverb. Each song uses the electronic modifier in various ways and in various levels of intensity. For instance, “Bus Stop” gets reverbed piano and electric guitar, while Mayson’s vocals in “Holiday” get the effect. That’s the symbolism behind the journey metaphor; in allowing certain aspects of the songs to echo, the soundscape of the EP is like a dream. The effect works in reaching your ear, but still needs fine tuning. On “Lost,” the effect drowns the song at times, and “Bus Stop” becomes a wall of sound at its peak. While straying from overt electronic intrusion, the debut singer uses reverb to accentuate his old soul persona on Jackasoul.
Mayson The Soul’s Jackasoul is a modern take on the reflective love story. Throughout these songs, Mayson looks back on the moments of love going well either in despair (“Lost” and “Bus Stop”) or in hope (“Holiday”). The songs are poignant and well produced, with the reverb in each serving to signify the passage of time. This EP is a love letter to mature love, one that’s entrenched in the day to day, beyond the honeymoon stage. For his first collection of songs, Mayson the Soul sets himself up as one of the more romantic singers in the Korean R&B scene.