Jim Davies is best known for being the former studio and live guitarist for Prodigy, a former member of Pitchshifter, and his work with a variety of artists including Victory Pill, Flint, and Hyper to name a few. Now working as a solo artist, in his debut release, Headwars, Jim incorporates dramatic, dark moods with heavily textured synths, smooth vocals, and powerful beats.
Headwars opens the album. The wide range of synth tones and textures interplaying with each other creates an electric atmosphere. There’s a haunting dissonant aspect to the sound that adds an extra something. Jim’s vocals have a smooth texture that flows seamlessly through the chaos and drama of the electronics and heavier instruments. The energy is explosive. Control+Z (Feat. MD Clayden, Jason Bowld) continues the energy. This track contains a few synth sounds in the style of Prodigy and Pendulum. Ticking Timebomb draws together catchy chord sequences and vocal lines. The main chord pattern is one of those that manages to get stuck inside your head so easily. The track effectively uses synths to create an atmosphere that suits the track, concept, and lyrics, perfectly. The explosive (no pun intended) feel builds gradually throughout the track leading to the explosive sound effects that conclude the track. The subtle synth sounds mimic sirens enhance the track, tying the instrumentation in with the lyrics.
The guitars and rock elements of the instrumentation are carefully combined with the electronics. Both music styles are used effectively to enhance the effect of the overall sound; they aren’t used for the sake of it. Subtle guitar leads, licks and motifs are layered amongst the synths without sounding invasive. “Shadows” is a great example of this. The tone of the guitar brings something extra. There’s a lot going on with this track; along with the guitars and synths, there are the trap-style drums in this track and, of course, Jim’s soaring vocals. Everything blends seamlessly. It shows the attention to detail paid in the compositional and production stages of the music. Creating such a dramatic sound that is full of tones and textures that support each other rather than feeling disjointed. Trigger Finger (Feat. Tut Tut Child) sees heavier distorted guitars blended with fast synths. The energy of this track has a bit of a Prodigy feel about it. The experimentation with the synths, arrangement, and rhythm of this track creates a high powered, energetic track.
The album contains a vast range of moods with each track. Game of Faces creates a sultry, seductive sound with the slower beat and enticing vocals. Parts of the instrumentation. Zombies apt for the times with relatable lyrics of the social media world. The fast-paced, energetic instrumentation gives the track a powerful momentum. The dark contrast of murderous lyrics and Milly’s soft voice makes Now You Know (Feat. Milly Rodda) an interesting track. Once again, taking the album off in a different direction, the contrast of the instrumentation and the lyrics draws upon some very dark ideas which make the music all the more impactful. It’s an unexpected but well-done track. It’s fascinating how many genre influences have been incorporated throughout the tracks on Headwars. Nothing feels out of place on the album. The consistency and continuity of Jim’s sound remain present.
Jim Davies has clearly demonstrated with this album that he knows how to combine guitars and synths. Each track delivers a different feel with atmospheric soundscapes and powerful lyrics. The lyrics of these tracks are cleverly written with the relatability of Zombies and dramatic narrative of Ticking Timebomb. Headwars contains a vast collection of styles and yet, as an album, it all works. It’s a great showcase of Jim’s capabilities and ability to create a ludicrously dynamic sound with a clear identity.
Words by Holly Royle