Jesse Boykins III

Love Apparatus

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Although Jesse Boykins III released enjoyable albums and EPs, much of his best work from 2007 through 2013 was done in serial one-off collaborator mode. Among the high points were "Toot d'Amore" (with Chin Chin), "Make Me a Fool" (the Foreign Exchange), "If I Could Tell You No" (Zo!), "See with Me" (Full Crate), and "Higher Times" (the Internet). One of his solo releases, a 2010 single titled "B4 the Night Is Thru," saw him align with Machine Drum for a cushiony midtempo groove about "working up the nerve" to approach a woman he views as out of his league: "Her look is timeless, I'm such a nerd." That song appears on Love Apparatus, along with ten other songs made with Machine Drum, while Hadyn and Chad Beatz each contribute to one track. "B4 the Night Is Thru" still stands out, not just because it's so appealing and hypnotic, but also because it's the lone lucid track that would work on a dancefloor. A handful of selections carry steady thumps but are closer to alluringly bleary downtempo house; "The Wonder Years," the best of that bunch, has a soft, anthracite-like glow. The remainder, including several wicked slow jams, are closer to "See with Me" than anything else. Through these intimate or personal scenes that take place within a tempestuous relationship, Boykins displays remarkable range despite largely sticking to his breathy, gently pleading approach. Machine Drum proves that he's no mere dabbler when it comes to making tracks that suit a left-of-center R&B artist. For "Live in Me," he constructs one of his most intricate productions, its percussion continually parrying and peeling back, intensifying with dance-and-stab strings and smeared horns. The typically poetic lines from Boykins can read like overwrought blather, but when he sings "You can feel it in my stare/No need to be scared," it's plain the man -- a deep-feeling romantic, to say the least -- means business. The songs regarding the uglier side of romance, such as one in which Boykins offers "Daylight is the only weapon when you choose for us to fight," are just as effective.

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