REVIEW: Leon Vynehall – Rare, Forever

Rare, Forever is very much an album made to be listened to as an album, in its entirety. A few of the tracks work in isolation sure, but this requires your full attention and readiness for settling into a mood for 37 and a half minutes, rather than the ‘choons’ or ‘bangers’ that might come to mind when dance or electronica are mentioned. It’s perfectly ordered and measured, like a compelling narrative.

It’s progressive and hypnotic throughout. Tracks don’t develop in conventional ways, merging into one another and calling back sounds and motifs from earlier in the album. It’s punctuated by often indecipherable poetry and spoken word moments. It transcends the styles we know with elements of deep house, techno and the bleak bass sound of Burial. All this together means it’s perhaps less accessible than something like Hannah Peel or John Hopkins but it certainly comes from a similar mould – fans of the above should definitely be giving Rare, Forever a listen.

It’s not all geared at the head though, there is plenty of emotion here too. Rare, Forever is full of optimism. The middle sections of ‘Mothra’, ‘Snakeskin ∞ Has-Been’ and ‘An Exhale’ are uplifting in a way that was unimaginable but a year ago. Sure, very few festivals are likely to go ahead this summer, but live music is once again on the horizon and this trio of tracks evokes a feeling of longing that has not been this real in a very long time. While they may not contain the conventional methods of the dancefloor, they certainly capture the feeling. Tiny snippets of sounds from across the dance spectrum appear throughout to similarly raise both hopes and hairs (on the back of the neck).

Vynehall’s sound is often characterised by real instruments being altered and manipulated electronically. The very first sound on the album is strings, soon followed by flute. Saxophone is used to great effect in this way on ‘Alichea Vella Amor’ and ‘All I See Is You, Velvet Brown’ giving an extra layer of unexpected jazz noodling to the album.

Rare, Forever is the perfect album for right now. It brews excitement and anticipation. The harsh lessons of lockdown upon lockdown have taught us to longer look forward to things. Leon Vynehall is here to help us un-learn and let go once again. Three minutes or so into ‘An Exhale’, in itself no more appropriate a metaphor, is the tipping point. Our normal lives have seemed rare, forever but they are nearly back. Appositely then, ‘Dumbo’ that follows is the bangingest banger here as we’re finally allowed to let loose, cast those facemasks aside and just dance. No, not even that. To simply stand in a crowd and take in the atmosphere.

I say all this but of course this is just me and how I feel. I have no idea what Leon Vynehall intended this album to be about, if anything. The pretentious song titles allude to some deeper meaning, but could equally be nonsense. Who knows? Who cares? I don’t. I’m very happy enjoying this in the moment and looking forward to many more moments to come.

Words by James Spearing

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