Leon Vynehall – ‘Rare, Forever’ review: a slippery exercise in electronic experimentation

The British producer's splendid second album cements his place as one of our boldest and most fearless creatives

Leon Vynehall has been a ubiquitous figure in British electronic music for the best part of a decade now. He made his name with balmy house thumpers on 2014’s ‘Music for the Uninvited’ EP and its beefy sequel ‘Rojus (Designed To Dance)’, as well as ample acclaimed DJ mixes. But it was the UK producer’s 2018 debut album ‘Nothing Is Still’ that showcased the true breadth of his ability. Populated with orchestral movements and described by NME upon its release as a moment of “symphonic genius”, Vynehall told the story of his grandparents’ emigration from to the US in the 1960s with emotion and admiration.

Much like today’s pop heroes, Vynehall has always made clear distinctions between his ‘eras’ and his assorted projects. He’s also been more than willing to reckon with the past for his own musical gain. Vynehall’s two aforementioned breakthrough EPs were playfully inspired by the music of his youth – listening to his mum’s house, hip-hop and soul-filled cassette tapes – while ‘Nothing Is Still’ mined his family history for inspiration.

However, with his second studio album ‘Rare, Forever’ – which marks yet another fruitful period for the producer – Vynehall has made it clear that he’s done with drawing too heavily on the past, favouring instead to make something that’s more of the moment. In an accompanying statement, he likens his approach to this album to a snake outgrowing and then shedding its skin, leaving it “behind like a memory” as “an artefact of where it once was”.

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Little wonder, then, that ‘Rare, Forever’ makes for such a slippery, intoxicating listen. The production and songwriting feel looser and more experimental, liberated from the weight of carrying heavy narratives or nostalgia. When elements appear unfamiliar, Vynehall guides them into similar worlds like he’s just cracked the next piece of the puzzle. The woozy ‘Alichea Vella Amor’, for example, is filled with snatches of melodies which compete for attention before eventually combining to make a satisfactory whole.

The road that ‘Snakeskin ∞ Has-Been’ then travels – which opens with a stuttering, bassy loop and builds into something rather playful – is genuinely fascinating. Much like with his song titles (‘Farewell! Magnus Gabbro’, ‘In>Pin’), Vynehall appears to be speaking his own musical language with breathtaking fluency. There’s success when the songs hold firm, too: ‘Dumbo’’s stomping beats and the twinkling ‘An Exhale’ are both reminiscent of ‘Further’-era Chemical Brothers in their scope and execution.

By the time we get the opportunity to experience these songs live, there’s every chance that Vynehall could have morphed them into something totally different. But that’s half the fun, we suppose – onwards we slither.

Details

  • Release date: April 30
  • Record label: Ninja Tune
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