12-10-2014 | 15.51
In an electronic music world today where new music is mass-produced daily, structures and progressions begin to become overused and overplayed. New and interesting ideas for music can be really hard to find when you’re flicking through the thousands of tracks released daily on Youtube and Soundcloud in the so-called underground electronic dance scene. It’s in times like these where producer-DJs like Leon Vynehall become so refreshing, not because they defy all the conventions of typical modern dance music production, but because there is an emphasis on that simple musical quality that so often appears to be missing. Leon’s production and DJing is purely driven by sound, by those little parts of a track that fill you with nostalgia, by the beauty he sees and feels in music – and he’s not shy to take a risk or two to keep it fresh and interesting in both his production and when he’s performing. So what makes Leon Vynehall special? What makes him different from other producers and DJs and worth dedicating an evening to?
Disco, hip-hop, techno, funk, jazz, house, electro – Leon Vynehall takes music from all over the place, and it’s clear from the moment he steps out onto the floor to DJ. His latest Boiler Room session, “An afternoon with Leon Vynehall” , has great tracks from a variety of different genres, and Leon comes across as a guy with great humility, not fazed by whatever fame he has acquired in the underground scene to date. In his latest RA interview, he alludes to the influence of his mother on his music, and you can really feel an old-school sentimental mood to the tracks he introduces in the Boiler Room.
Inspired by a desire for rawness, freshness and imperfections, Leon assembles mixes that go against the typical modern DJ approach of reoccurring pre-sets and smooth, monotonous transitions. This is not to say Leon can’t mix smoothly, just that he craves an unpolished feel to his sets. He can take advantage of a transition which appears to be wrong, or unsuitable to you and I, and turn it into something really effective in the context of a performance. Listen to the first 10 minutes of his ManMakeMusic mix if you want a clearer idea of this type of stylisation, at 7:30 an aggressive rhythm suppresses the mystical vibes of the introduction – taking the mix in an entirely new direction.
His double EP earlier this year, “Music For The Uninvited” received a really strong reception, and justifiably so. The opening track “Inside the Deku Tree” is inspired by the soundtrack to the action-fantasy video game “The legend of Zelda” an absolute classic on Nintendo 64 released in 1998, and it feels just like that. The opener, a slow meandering string builder creates a great tension as it floats and elevates and climaxes; although it leaves you craving for a kick-drum, LV refrains from introducing it, leaving you full of suspense going into the second track. Here a vocal-sample is slowly introduced to hook you in as the tension continues to rise; finally subtle and funky rhythms are introduced and takeover. Within 10 minutes you already get a good idea of LV’s song-writing capabilities, he knows how to create suspense, how to structure a track, how to layer and sample, but these samples are never overused and nor is the music overcomplicated. That quality is maintained right through to the end, peaking with great dance-floor moments such as “Peir children” a garage track standing tall at the heart of the album. The arrangement is also effective, maintaining an absorbing fantasy-journey like quality throughout, before “St. Sinclair” provides us with a fitting and delicate finale.
Perhaps one of Leon’s stand out releases “Butterflies”, released earlier in July this year, is a track so complete it feels as though Leon has been composing house music for decades. There is a clear understanding of musical progression, as instruments and layers are pushed and pulled into the forefront of the track. The vocal sample has that typical innocent Leon Vynehall style vibe to it, and jazzy pianos motifs and synths fill the background. The track never dares to lose momentum, it’s a lesson in how to use seven and a half minutes and maintain an emphatic sense of development from beginning to end.
It is pretty clear from the various interviews with Leon of his self-effacement, he is in the industry for all the right reasons. He performs because he enjoys music, and it’s that in turn which he uses to empower a crowd. It’s too easy to develop an opinion about a DJ without going and seeing them live, after all, that’s where you can see how they react and direct a crowd across an evening. Leon Vynehall knows how to entertain and to mix it up, there’s a little bit of something for everyone in his music. He said in an interview for George Fitzgerald that when people go out it’s to “dance and forget about all their daily problems in a sweaty room for a few hours” – a perfect excuse to put your troubles to one side, get out there and experience him live during ADE.
To celebrate Leon Vynehall's upcoming performance here during ADE, we’re giving away 2x2 guest list spots for Colors & Hessle Audio x Clone Records plus two copies of Leon Vynehall's Butterflies EP on Clone's sublabel Royal Oak. What do you have to do to win? Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org before Wednesday October 15th 12:00 containing the answer to this question: which city in the UK does Leon Vynehall call home? The winners will receive a notification on Wednesday afternoon.