Levon Vincent - Silent Cities Music Album Reviews

Levon Vincent - Silent Cities Music Album Reviews
The Berlin-based producer’s fourth full-length trades his customary techno for 78 minutes of grimly beautiful music. It’s a long, bleak, challenging album that envelops the listener in darkness and fog.

With his last album, 2019’s World Order Music, Levon Vincent found a home for both the cavernous techno he’s best known for and the synth-based minimalism that has cropped up from time to time on his releases. But one track indicated a third, unforeseen direction that Vincent’s music might take. “She Likes to Wave at Passing Boats” consisted of little more than a rudimentary house beat and an incredible wall of string synths, yet Vincent highlighted it as a “surprise favorite” on the album, and no wonder. There’s always been something urban and dystopian about Vincent’s music, and “Passing Boats” presented Vincent as Vangelis, lighting up his subterranean sound world with a flash of Blade Runner blues. This sound suited him, and it made for one of the most powerful productions of his career.

Vincent’s fourth album, Silent Cities, expands on the basic idea of “Passing Boats” across 78 minutes of grim, architectural, often astonishingly beautiful music. Though titles like “Birds,” “Tigers,” and “Mother Amazon” suggest lushness and greenery, the album’s simple construction and sheer scale make it hard to picture anything other than urban vastness and desolation. Among electronic music’s evocations of cities, it’s comparable to Burial’s Untrue, 2814’s Birth of a New Day, Deepchord Presents Echospace’s Liumin, and DJ Sprinkles’ Midtown 120 Blues in its depth, scope, and imagination. You want to soar over this city, explore its hidden streets and back alleys, discover what every pinprick of light on the horizon belongs to.

While most sonic cityscapes suggest hustle and bustle, Silent Cities is minimal and streamlined in its construction, with tracks that move glacially over long run times. This isn’t a crowded thoroughfare but a sleepy industrial hinterland or empty parking garage. It’s easy to connect this sparseness to the depopulation of city streets during COVID-19 lockdown; in fact, though Vincent recorded the bulk of the album pre-pandemic, he finalized it in 2020 while looking out at the emptiness of his adopted home of Berlin. But while the cover features Berlin’s Fernsehturm TV tower, it also incorporates the Empire State Building from his hometown of New York. Like the city in Babe: Pig in the City, which cribs landmarks from all over the world in its skyline, Silent Cities is all cities, distilled into one grander and more mysterious than any that could exist in reality.

Four-on-the-floor techno beats are largely absent. Instead, we hear irregular kick drums accompanied by a near-constant tattoo of eighth-note or 16th-note hi-hats. Synth strings meander slowly above a yawning void of bass, accompanied on a few tracks by a tinny artificial piano that sounds like it was ripped out of a Chicago house track and jettisoned in a back alley. Effects are sparse aside from a chilly pall of reverb and the intrusion of dubby chords on “Birds” and “Mother Amazon.” Sometimes this music sounds like trap, as on “Gattaca.” At other times, it sounds like early-2010s producers like Cooly G, CFCF, and Kuedo, who preferred pretty chords and simple synth patches to side-chains and sub-bass. What it certainly does not sound like is dance music—nor does it sound like ambient music, as you’ll learn when “Birds” bleeds into the red in its final moments.

Silent Cities boasts a sly melodicism that makes it much more interesting than if Vincent was simply holding down minor chords on synth pads. Counterintuitively, it also makes the music sound creepier; so does his use of just intonation, which unlocks weird, microtonal harmonies. The melody of “Everlasting Joy” lingers slightly too long on one note until it sounds less like a hook than an unwholesome guffaw. “Gattaca,” “Sunrise,” and “Wolves” are based on the robust chord progressions and bright synths associated with anthems, but they circle endlessly instead of building to anything. On “Moonlight,” a single synth lead is backed by bass and drums, and it’s hilarious how the hi-hats race madly to the finish line while the melody chases its own tail in circles. We get a sense of grandeur and triumph with no release or climax, contributing to the album’s consistent feeling of being awed by your surroundings but still hopelessly lost.

It’s remarkable how much Silent Cities diverges from the trajectory of Vincent’s full-lengths while still feeling like his prior work. This is a long, bleak, challenging album that envelops the listener in darkness and fog, and that’s also true of World Order Music and his stunning self-titled album from 2015 (and, to a lesser extent, 2017’s For Paris). Vincent says this is the first album he made with no expectations of dancefloor play, instead optimizing it for listening on headphones, preferably while navigating a city. The parts of his music most alluring to the casual listener—dimly lit atmospheres, evocative synth sounds—are at the fore of Silent Cities, but that doesn’t make his music easier to get a grip on. Instead, the mystery deepens with each listen, until it expands in your head into a world bigger and more sprawling than even Vincent himself could imagine.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Levon Vincent - Silent Cities Music Album Reviews Levon Vincent - Silent Cities Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on June 21, 2022 Rating: 5


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