Switched On – Leon Vynehall: Rare, Forever (Ninja Tune)

leon-vynehall

reviewed by Ben Hogwood

What’s the story?

Thus is the first album of Leon Vynehall‘s thirties, a response to the nagging inner voice asking where he was going artistically. The response is predictably varied, a creative line in the sand showing off what a versatile producer he has become.

What’s the music like?

Because of the variety of music here, Rare, Forever hangs together extremely well as an album. There are strong undercurrents running through it too- Vynehall’s ear for richly coloured sounds is always apparent, as is a strong affinity with elements of rave from the late 1980s. These are revealed in the quicker tracks, but the atmospheric slower material is equally effective.

From the off, a strong melody winds upwards before cutting to loping beats as Ecce! Ego! takes shape. Mothra features probing electronic riffs, flickering against a white foamy backdrop. Alichea Vella Amor takes a thoughtful tenor sax solo and winds it around a metronomic backing, while on Snakeskin ∞ Has-Been the beats cut loose.

The ambitious beats and chopped up rhythms are a strong feature of the album as it gets into its stride. Worm (& Closer & Closer) is a particularly good track, with a dislocated vocal and big, wide open loops. An Exhale has splashes of colour over the bumpy beats, while Dumbo also hits a jagged groove, the rave elements up top. The air hangs thick and heavy for the elegiac Farewell! Magnus Gabbro, while All I See Is You, Velvet Brown gives us an atmospheric close.

Does it all work?

Yes. A very different album to his previous acclaimed long player Nothing Is Still, but one that shows Leon Vynehall has capacity to master a number of different styles and speeds. Nothing Is Still was achingly cinematic at times, but Rare, Forever has a wide range of approaches, and hits a powerful set of grooves as it progresses.

Is it recommended?

Very much so. Rare, Forever is a portrait of an artist at a fascinating point in his career. The multi-talented Leon Vynehall still has enormous potential, and it will be fascinating to see where it takes him next.

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