Feature – Levon Vincent: A Scientist in the Field of Ass-Shakery
The last ten years have seen Levon Vincent become one of the most revered names in electronic music. A self-professed ‘scientist working in the field of ass-shakery’, Vincent’s theoretical music training and intelligent production sees him live up to this title. His early productions drew heavily upon music theory to create masterful and accomplished electronic music, instantly setting him apart from other producers in the field. Much of his earlier work relies on principles such as the golden mean and is informed by the training he undertook in New York. Today he claims to have internalised the theory to an extent where they become instinctively engrained into his music. “I really do respect the smith”, he told Angus Finlayson of The Quietus, “the blacksmith, the wordsmith – you know, learn the entire body of knowledge pertaining to your field that you possibly can in one lifetime…I think you find your field and then you obsess over it until you’re gone.” ‘Obsessive’ is one word for it, but this dedication to understanding the principles of music demonstrates Vincent’s genuine infatuation with and willingness to absorb every aspect of his field. With this considered, its no wonder he’s achieved such success.
Vincent began DJing in early adolescence after moving to the East Coast in the 80’s, and became a successful New York DJ in the 90’s. A deep love of New York House music has persisted throughout his professional career. A 90’s mixing style is something he is still renowned for, favouring long blends and moderate paced track changes as opposed to the modern fast-paced blends. 90’s New York was an odd time for dance music. Mayor Rudy Giuliani re-enforced the 1926 Cabaret Law, which meant that, without a valid license, dancing was prohibited across the city. The law hadn’t been enforced for over 50 years, so the only venues holding a license were old bars. No nightclubs, nowhere deriving from the disco era and nowhere representative of the new house and techno scene was permitted to thrive. The NYC club scene was stunted and DJing was no longer viable for Vincent, so he began his music theory training.
Vincent’s productions from hereon out continued to excel, and a move to Berlin expanded his musical range and taste. Angus Finlayson describes his music as “pull[ing] the sonic signatures of his adopted home of Berlin into the sensual orbit of New York house in a way few could hope to imitate.” It is this experimental innovation and seamless blending of influences that give his productions such an edge. With structures built around disorientation, Vincent is known for his somewhat odd, dubbed out beats, owing to a re-contextualisation of Roland’s Space Echo sounds. “He gets you to accept the strange as normal”, says Todd L. Burns, editor of Resident Advisor. These oddities in his music – organs, panting breaths, a malfunctioning air raid siren – makes it ultimately so compelling. The simplicity of the music’s constituent parts creates a paradox with the intriguing and diverse sounds offered up in his repertoire. Dubbed “one of the most impressive and idiosyncratic house and techno producers of the half decade plus”, Vincent has most certainly made his mark.
Levon founded label Deconstruct with fellow New York deep house master, Antony Parasole, in 2008 which boasts releases from Mike Denhert, Ryan Elliott, Henning Baer and Nick Höppner. His solo-label project Novel Sound was also launched the same year – it was the year that marked his upward spiral into the world of electronic music. The UK was one of the first places to embrace the techno pioneer, and his 2009 Resident Advisor podcast acted as a platform to contextualise his work, which has since found an audience around the world.
It’s Levon Vincent’s name that graces the cover of Fabric’s 63rd mix CD. The 2012 album exemplifies Vincent’s passion for new music and commitment to sharing it. Renowned for letting tracks play out to the end, the album fittingly opens with Joey Anderson’s full 7 minute track Earth Calls. Anderson is an artist Vincent has been truly impressed by, and has been dedicated to earning him the attention he deserves.
The last few years have brought Vincent to international attention, seeing him grace the stages of festivals and clubs across the globe. His debut album has been long-anticipated, and teaming up with visual artist, Thomas Bernich, each and every single copy of Vincent’s LP offers its own individually created artwork. Once again going the extra mile, it’s no wonder Levon Vincent continues to be one of the most exciting things in techno.
Review: Levon Vincent LP
Compared to his early work, Levon Vincent’s first LP – released for 24 hours last tuesday as a free download – is an unexpectedly light listen. The devil woman has been exorcised. His wild, industrial hammer-blows have been softened. But the eeriness that has come to characterise Vincent’s sets remains, mainly as a product of wild experimentation.
When the genre of the album appears as ‘blue synth pop-rooted disco-tech- noid, smart club anthems’ on iTunes, you know that things are being shaken up. Vincent is doing to American house what bands such as The Soft Machine did for jazz when they forged the Canterbury sound in the 60’s by adding the weird and the wonderful. Moreover, this album emulates the William Bur- roughs novel after which The Soft Machine are named. It is a prose work that cuts and pastes phrases at random to create a psychedelic, schizophrenic and sublime reading experience. Comparably, Vincent’s album achieves all of these effects with the pure sonic scope he exhibits. Seemingly unrelated noises from urbanity are woven to create a terrifying and gorgeous electro tapestry. ‘The Beginning’ – a quirky, metallic nod to 80s electro – might get launched late on in the night when delirium kicks in, its twisted melodies worming their way into your subconscious, while ‘Launch Ramp to tha Sky’ is an eleven-minute African-tinged techno odyssey that will blow your cap off in the club.
Knocking together a floor-filler has become run of the mill for Vincent, so it’s great to see him purvey some bona fide artistry with this self-titled debut, an album that deserves spins at home as well as in the club.
Basically, what Vincent embodies is deviance. He is giving zero fucks, and making some of the kookiest ‘Anti-Corporate’ music of the year. Listen out for it in the club.