Release Date: Apr 2, 2013
Record label: R&S / R&S Records
In the last few years, plenty of acts have politely shuffled into the space between that exists between, say, James Blake and the xx. That space, filled with pregnant silences and rippling bass and hushed vocals, has become vaunted real estate as dozens of groups seem to discover Burial and Voodoo at the same time, gently jockeying for position in one of the young decade’s singular musical trends. But the three young gentleman in London’s Vondelpark bought their lot earlier than most—led by Lewis Rainsbury, vocalist/multi-instrumentalist/producer/braintrust, they’ve been exploring the more enigmatic side of the quiet storm renaissance for years, in various guises.
VondelparkSeabed[R&S; 2013]By Rob Hakimian; April 2, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetLondon trio Vondelpark have already released a couple of EPs on Belgian dance music label R&S records. This home seemed natural for them on those two releases as their music was more rooted in dance trends (though never making downright floor-fillers), but on their first full length, Seabed, the band seem to have found their own sound that sets them apart from others on the label. This becomes clear from the changes in the new version of “California Analogue Dream,” which eschews the more active beat and scrappier vocals from the previously released Sauna EP version, and inputs a more simplistic driving beat along with clear vocals which better suit Vondelpark’s new style as purveyors of utterly laid back music.
Vondelpark are a London based trio who’ve gained quite a reputation over the past few years making a kind of warped RnB inflected electronica. The earliest coverage of Vondelpark had them pitched as a solo project of multi-instrumentalist singer and producer Lewis Rainsbury. Both 2010’s Sauna EP and 2011’s NYC Stuff And NYC Bags, released on esteemed Belgian electronic label R&S, were introspective pieces of bedroom crafted electronica that sounded very much like the work of one inspired mind.
Vondelpark learned the virtues of patience the hard way. In 2009, when the UK trio's members were still well within their teens, their melodramatically doomy band Lion Club scored what must've felt like a huge break: Converse picked them to be the subjects of a 50-minute documentary on the travails of being in an emerging rock group. It isn't clear exactly what happened next, but tastes change, talent matures, and by August 2010, Vice posted a (no-longer-online) interview cheekily titled, "Vondelpark Has No MySpace, So You Can Only Learn About Him Here." A few months later, Vondelpark released the first of two EPs.
One glance at Vondelpark might have you ready to crown them captains of the James Blake bandwagon, given the similarities between the two. Yet this UK trio has been pumping out silky smooth dub/R&B for almost five years now, compared to James’ three. After two solid EPs and mounting buzz, their debut LP, Seabed, does share much in common with the “Retrograde” singer (they also cite Arthur Russell and Drake as major influences), but what makes Vondelpark special is their ability to warm like a fire during a snowstorm, while Blake’s music prefers to stay out in the frigid air.
There’s no record of what went down in the Boiler Room chatroom when Vondelpark played live for them in 2011, but it probably wasn’t an outpouring of getting it. The Surrey three-piece inhabit the world of DJs and producers but are actually a mellow band who translate dance music’s pleasure principle into spare boxroom jams. ‘Blue Again’ and ‘Quest’ combine R&B yearning with spacious production and hazy guitar, and they dip into a slick AOR palette on the excellent title track.
R&S has had a new split personality since its late '00s renaissance. Half techno/bass and half indie electronica, the label is defined as much by floor-fillers as it is by the drifting serenity of Cloud Boat and Vondelpark. The latter trio hail from London and represent the somber side of the label's sound. Though their earlier work had traces of UK garage, Vondelpark's debut LP has a different mission.
Quotes like this can be seen all over the internet (in reference to the banality of form and signifier): What does that even mean? The incongruous cramming together of signs and symbols is the way of the post-internet world — post-internet being a term that has been thrown around quite a bit over the last few years. It means to pin down the exact effects of a heightened form of communication, the shared hyper connectivity that has caused in some senses a sort of regression: the distancing from immediacy and focus on the hazy lines between things. There is as discreteness between known objects, a suggestive low context.
Meticulous and soulful, this is exemplary electronic RnB. Mike Diver 2013 Feel for the new. The music industry presents a fine façade of caring about its up-and-coming crop – but beyond fresh-on-our-radar style features, bright talents can soon find themselves shrouded in shadow. Would-be tastemakers move on as should-bes, sounds processed and stamped with a potentially career-defining rating, flounder.
While there’s clearly much about this London-based trio that would incline most listeners to lump them in with other members of the UK bass scene - not least the fact they’re signed to the movement’s flagship label, R&S - Vondelpark place more emphasis on the organic aspects of their music, as evidenced by their captivating live shows. Blending influences as disparate as The Cure and Portishead in to the template laid out by acts like The xx and label-mate James Blake, the band, led by creative driving force, 21-year-old Lewis Rainsbury, have managed to make an album that is melancholic, hypnotic and dream-like. In fact, listening to ‘California Analog Dream’, one of the stand-out tracks on ‘Seabed’ and a song which first appeared on the 2010 ‘Sauna’ EP, you feel as though you could well be drifting in and out of sleep, in a good way.
In a poem entitled 'so you want to be a writer', the pulp novelist Charles Bukowski said, "if it doesn't come bursting out of you... don't do it.” And, as a general rule, this is how it should be. There's no point in simply going through the motions. Of course, even if it does come "bursting out of you", it's not a guarantee that it's going to be any good.