Release Date: Feb 10, 2015
Record label: N/A
Levon Vincent's self-titled record, which consists of 11 tracks spread across eight sides of vinyl, is a half-lit maze, an exploration of dance music at its most subterranean. But even as the record reinforces his reputation as one of techno's most determined purists, it also suggests that his talents are more varied than perhaps anyone has given him credit for. Vincent, a New Yorker now based in Berlin, has been making records since the early 2000s, but only in the past six or seven years has become a key figure in the underground.
When Levon Vincent borrowed Marshall McLuhan's famous maxim "the medium is the message," he was using it to justify his commitment to vinyl. But his point—that the music you release is inseparable from the way in which you release it—has broader applications. Vincent has been a revered figure in house and techno for years now. Any album, but particularly a long-awaited debut from such a well-liked artist, will bring with it new expectations.
If the first couple of months of 2015 are any indication, this year’s quality dance albums are going to make 2014’s seem like a hazy, “lost” weekend. A handful of shorter-form heavyweights and rising stars have already unveiled proper debut albums that meet and even exceed expectations. And with labels such as Rush Hour Recordings and Dark Entries continually unearthing vintage, unreleased material from past greats, dance-music nerds have their listening work cut out for them.
Levon Vincent — Levon Vincent (Novel Sound)We knew it was coming. But the actuality of a self-released, digitally available, entirely free Levon Vincent full-length is still something pretty special in 2015. For years, the New York noisemaker was an urban legend of sorts, making highly limited vinyl-only releases that slowly but surely built up critical cache and an increasingly rabid Discogs following.
“Blue synth pop-rooted disco-technoid, smart club anthems. ” So reads the genre embedded into the metadata of the MP3 version of Levon Vincent’s debut album, given away by the artist on WeTransfer the day before it was released on vinyl. As a descriptor it’s pretty apt; the thick staccato melodies of opening tracks ‘The Beginning’ and ‘Phantom Power’ sound more like Gary Numan than the psychotropic house of 2009’s ‘Double Jointed Sex Freak’ or the freewheeling juggernaut that is 2011’s ‘Man Or Mistress’ – a track that Vincent memorably said would make people “shit themselves”.
In discussing the increasing amount of noise coming from New York's long dormant house scene, a few figures surge forward strongly, but probably none so much so as Levon Vincent, whose emergence to worldwide acclaim at the head of that pack has been as curious to watch as it has been compelling. While producers like Fred P, DJ Qu, or Joey Anderson have honed sounds that are distinctive from their separate beginnings, Levon's music has grown and matured over time; from his nearly-suppressed early efforts on his original More Music NY label, to his sudden re-emergence simultaneously on both Novel Sound and Deconstruct Music in 2008 with a sound much more recognisably focused and his own that has remained mostly inimitable ever since. If his 2008 work brought about fair comparisons to Maurizio, as well as comments concerning the occasionally offensive titles of the tracks, it was fairly clear from early pieces like 'These Games' that Vincent was on his way into new territory.