Album Reviews

Leon Vynehall – Rojus

What’s interesting about Leon Vynehall is that, throughout his short career so far, he hasn’t fully committed to or straddled one concrete aspect of house music. Rather, he seems to relish the opportunity to push the boundaries of a relatively confined genre, and, given the constraints and familiarity of its 4/4 foundation, Vynehall has consistently found enough leeway to bridge out while maintaining a dance-floor ready edge. Rojus, his latest effort, sees the Brighton producer take elements from 2014’s Music For The Uninvited to offer a collection that, whilst finding its feet once more within the broad strokes of the Chicago sound, allows for enough variation on his previous work to keep things moving.

Over the course of its eight tracks, Rojus displays shades of Vynehall’s previous excursions into more lush territory, but isn’t shy about ramping up the energy too. Opener ‘Beyond This..’ mirrors the swirling, penetrative synth soundtracks composed by Vangelis, or Tangerine Dream throughout the ‘70s, but does so in short, blunt arpeggios that sit comfortably aside the likes of contemporary artists like Lone or Martyn. It’s a breezy introduction for when ‘Saxony’ bursts forth with a loose rhythmic punch and jazz-soaked melodies. Sunny, modal and contagious, it’s a bright tip-of-the-cap to early ‘90s Kenny Larkin and the house/garage crossover sounds of the day.

Things get a little grittier, though perhaps not enough, as chord stabs and tonal changes flourish within the likes of ‘Beau Sovereign’ or ‘Wahness’ – rolling, hypnotic drum lines and echoing samples quickly becoming a go-to layering technique for Vynehall as we move deeper into the record. That’s not to say that the proffered, hazier motifs are lost. As ‘Paradisea’, the half-way point, builds and expands, there’s a balearic lining to proceedings that is surprisingly welcome. ‘Blush’ furthers this but does so with a laid back disco vibe that’s heavy on nostalgia more than anything else and it isn’t until the mammoth ‘Kiburu’s’ that it really makes sense – the two bleeding effortlessly into each other before winding the album down with ‘..There Is You’ – a kind of bookended extension of ‘Beyond This..’ that doesn’t really offer much in the way of variation in comparison to the rest of the LP.

Rojus is steeped in visions of warmer climes, and Vynehall has given us a fine precursor to the summer. But as a significant point in Vynehall’s career, and even though he’s done well to get here in such a short space of time, it’d be nice to hear something a little deeper and darker. All the components are there, the potential is there, the tracks too, but in Rojus they are executed fairly uniformly. A step in the right direction, for sure, but next time a running jump might be in order. Aaron Drain