IT’S EASY TO see why Brooklynite Tomas Doncker describes his racially-charged musical vision of R&B with blues overtones as global soul. The Mess We Made is the soundtrack to a short film conceived by Doncker and internationally acclaimed performance artist, Marla Mase. The quasi-fictional film follows a day in the life of Uber cab driver and well-educated black Iraqi war veteran, Tre Davis, as he drives the streets of present-day New York City. The songs reflect back the sights, sounds and social attitudes that pervade 21st century existence, giving rise to everything from the irony of the social media disconnection, to community disintegration pushed along by the gradual infiltration of the 1 percent. All of which drives Davis to the frustrating realisation that the streets of the USA are not necessarily paved with gold.
The concept is anything but funny, but neither is the delivery overly earnest or serious. Doncker and co-producer James Dellatacoma have struck a fine balance between lyrical narrative and musicality that successfully communicates the concerns of the story’s protagonist while simultaneously demonstrating a cool instrumental facility that constantly holds itsself back in service of the concept as a whole. Not to mention the audio quality, which is smooth and allows you to step into the spare arrangements with their occasional 3D-like street noise backdrop.
You just know there’s more going on with these guys beyond what the constrictions of this project will allow, and therein lies one of its many strengths; others of which stretch to a subtle underlying cross-pollination of flavours suggesting Prince, Lenny Kravitz, traditional blues and white rock, complemented by horn parts of exquisite beauty and taste.
Elsewhere, clever but non-intrusive vocal counterpoints take refreshingly few cues (if any) from rap, marking The Mess We Made as a timeless protest rhetoric on the state of the west in general at almost any point in recent history – the kind of musical approach we’ve been sorely lacking considering the me-me-me condition of the majority of contemporary urban hip-hop.
Slightly crestfallen by the inclusion of a cover of U2’s ‘I Still Haven’t Found What I’m looking For’, I was pacified by the funky rhythmic texture laid down in the track’s central section, and reassured by how the lyric fit the story perfectly, at least. I would’ve preferred another original and topical diatribe, but by song’s-end I accepted the Irish inclusion, considering it as yet another allusion to Tomas Doncker’s global soul vision. A vision that accuses the revolution of looking for corporate sponsorship, and as alluded to in the song titled ‘The Revolution’, sends an order to ‘Take the hoodie off and pull your pants up’. I concur. PETER KEARNS
Sound = 3.5/5
Music = 4/5