Considering it’s a debut record, there’s a lot of interest in Levon Vincent’s self-titled album. Levon Vincent isn’t your regular LP debutant, though. A steady release of a couple of 12”s and singles as well as occasional mixes and a relentless global touring schedule means that Vincent is now one of the most recognisable names in techno and house. Vincent’s music also has an ethos – the title of the first track we heard from the record Anti-Corporate Music should give you a fairly rough idea what that would be. There’s been rumours that Vincent has been leaking his own music on file-sharing network Soulseek for years, so really it shouldn’t have been that much of a surprise when he gave the entirety of his debut LP away for free by posting a link on his Facebook page. But there it was, and a small section of the internet was temporarily sent into a frenzy.
Now it’s all very well giving it away for free – music gets given away for free on the internet all the time – but Levon Vincent’s debut is different. There’s a weight of expectation when your back catalogue includes Man or Mistress, Late Night Jam, Woman is the Devil and Impression of a Rainstorm and your releases have been drip-fed to the audience over a number of years. Eleven tracks is roughly what you could expect from Levon over the course of four years, never mind dropped all at once. Luckily, the record holds on to the many things which make Vincent’s music so enjoyable whilst also showing his continuing development as an artist with a constant willingness to experiment. For those unfamiliar with Vincent’s style, what he tries to achieve with his music can be hard to grasp initially, but persevere and you shall be rewarded.
The most endearing thing about Levon Vincent’s music is that it’s built on disguise. It’ll seem like there’s not much going on but on closerinspection there’ll be little moments and slow burning developments that have you sucked in before you realise and this LP is a perfect example. ‘Launch Ramp to Tha Sky’ offers a xylophone loop that feels as if its started from the depths of a rainforest, with little details and organ sounds that make its eleven minutes feel half that. The fact that it changes up completely two thirds of the way through helps, but it shows Levon’s ability to reel you in with his hypnotic sound. He can go pretty hard too, as the preceding track ‘Junkies On Hermann Strausse’ shows, and it most definitely will make its way into many early-hour sets in dark basements. It comes in at a point when switching up is almost a bit necessary, as the introductory two tracks are arguably the weakest on the record; while ‘Phantom Power’ is enjoyable, it definitely feels like it’s simply a warm-up for the real fun.
Following on from ‘Launch Ramp…’ though is the fifth track ‘For Mona, My Beloved Cat – Rest In Peace’ which is a gorgeous melancholy Call Super-esque ode to his feline (I think that’s a fair assumption to make). It adds a bit of extra dimension to the album; the sense that it is indeed a human making these sounds. It also feels like a turning point in the album, kicking off a handful of tracks that take it up a notch in quality. ‘Her Light Goes Through Everything’ and ‘Black Arm’ reinforce this writer’s suspicions that Levon has been listening to Suzi Ecto. They’re both warm and deep; the former creeping and brooding, the latter a gorgeously delicate and subtle club track that is also the album’s definitive track. It’s the likes of ‘Black Arm’ and ‘Confetti’ immediately after that particularly set the album apart. ‘Confetti’ is the only track with anything resembling a vocal on the album and even that is warped into something almost completely alien. It also seems to take cues from Kassem Mosse, another artist who created one of techno’s highlights of 2014 in Workshop 19.
It takes us into the last handful of tracks. ‘Anti-Corporate Music’, which was the only track we heard from the album before it surfaced, takes a more familiar Levon Vincent route of killer, pounding dub techno, and it’s bloody brilliant. The tense ‘Small Whole-Numbered Ratios’ is probably the least memorable track on the album, but that’s not to say it’s very listenable. When something as brilliant as the album closer ‘Woman is an Angel’ (an inversion on the name of one of his earlier and most well-known tracks ‘Woman is the Devil’) follows though, you’re up against it. This is Levon Vincent’s club music at its absolute finest. Arresting, imposing and demanding you to be sucked in, it already feels like a classic, something that could be said for the album in general. There are a few points in the album which aren’t spectacular, but I’d be hard pushed to say they bring down the record as a whole. It’s the best straight up techno album for a while and there won’t be many better to come. Essential listening. Antoin Lindsay