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White Noise: Levon Vincent - Levon Vincent

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Levon Vincent - Levon Vincent

Label: Novel Sound

Few artists in the dance game command as much respect and loyalty as Levon Vincent, who has been blowing ‘floors and minds with his smart brand of techno for almost ten years. His signature sound is deliberate and dramatic dance music, warped but not distorted, patient yet often surprising. Each added layer, whether a new drum pattern or a melody, is carefully constructed for maximum effect, and increases in power with time and repetition. Like real techno should.

While he may be one of the genre’s legitimate monarchs, Vincent faced the same problems as all techno producers do on the production of a long-player. Put simply, peak-time techno loses its impact over the course of an hour, especially outside of the club. To navigate this potential pitfall, Vincent has pulled off a more radical transformation than we might have expected. Gone are the drums that made his name, at least in part, as this LP is overflowing with bright melodies and playful experimentation.

It’s a bold move, but bold is what we’ve come to expect from a man who puts up two fingers to the music industry by suddenly releasing his debut LP for free over the internet (and rather subtly includes a track titled Anti-Corporate Music.) For the most part Vincent pulls off the shift with flair.

Launch Ramp To Tha Sky

First two cuts The Beginning and Phantom Power hark back to the 80s with their billowing synthwork, his trademark huge drums reduced to little more than a metronome. At the end of The Beginning the melody becomes untethered, as Vincent noodles winningly on the keys. It’s a sign of the gold to come on album highlight Launch Ramp To Tha Sky, which builds over a spacious arrangement of tribal chimes before disappearing for the last four minutes into a glorious freestyle jam. You can just imagine Vincent bending over his hardware turning knobs and fingering keys, and it’s a moment of real personality and warmth. More than ever we hear an emotional honesty in Vincent’s music, which even lets him get away with the introduction of a grand piano and choir in the track’s final moments.

This new sound is a delight, exploratory in its nature and brimming with character and soul, from the unlikely touchstones of Steve Reich or Oneohtrix Point Never on For Mona, My Beloved Cat. Rest in Peace to the gorgeous melodies of Black Arm W/ Wolf which shift over a supple rhythm section.

In fact, these melodic ventures are so compelling that it almost feels a shame when Vincent comes back to his old self for the last few tracks (as well as the gritty warehouse juggernaut Junkies On Hermann Strasse). That’s not to say these aren’t good tracks: Anti-Corporate Music is vintage Levon, with its militaristic stomp, chimes and washes of coruscating sound, while final cut Woman Is An Angel lets loose a wicked serrated bassline. These tracks are subtle, propulsive and gorgeously textured, but given how far outside his comfort zone Vincent seems willing to reach, you almost don’t want to come back home. And while these are good dancefloor tracks, they lack the immediate presence of Man or Mistress or ???.  

The advantage of this blend of old and new is that there’s something to please all comers: those looking for a few dancefloor monsters or others wanting something new from one of contemporary dance’s great talents. But both camps will probably end up feeling not as satisfied as they might if he had gone all the way in either direction. It’s a generous, varied package, and the quality of the music more than earns the LP a place in Vincent’s hallowed canon. But we’ll sure be hoping to hear more of this new adventurous side in material to come. That or a return to the prime-time Levon bangers that have still never left our crate.


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