Reviews: Levon Vincent – NS-12 (Novel Sound); DJ SCSI – The Ghetto Tech 7 EP (Hard Beach Entertainment)

Levon Vincent – NS-12 (Novel Sound)

Despite being one of those rare characters who seem able to straddle the line between the underground and the wider techno world, Levon Vincent has never really seemed quite as likely to travel as far down the path towards Berghainy, big room banginess as his friend and label partner Anthony Parasole has done. There has long been an edge to Vincent’s music, a deliberate obtuseness that adds a certain spikiness to even his most languid grooves. Last year’s album, with its thick, exploratory work outs and smart melodies helped redefine the deeper end of house and techno as somewhere that hadn’t yet abandoned an experimental ethos in favour of the join-the-dots chords and off-the-shelf moods so common in other producers work.

What the album perhaps lacked was something to pull itself out of the introspective, downbeat, and admittedly haunting shroud it wove for itself. While NS-12 still draws heavily on Vincent’s taste for deeper tones, it mounts them forward on a swell of tougher beats and clattering percussion, tempering them with an edge that is part dub, part woozy machine symphonics. Others have referred to the vibe as ‘warehouse’ – a term at risk of losing itself under confused meanings and connotations these days – but it feels a fitting description for the four tracks here. Even so, they avoid the dull thunk and thrum common to most of the music that falls under that label, and instead aim towards a slow build of emotion and strobing warmth.

While the A side fixes itself in the lower stratosphere with a pair of whacked out, solid, tools, the B side unfurls quickly into deep, morphing shards of rave tinged light which adds an air of emotional mystery and soulfulness to the proceedings. While there isn’t anything as ocean deep or personal as the best moments of the album, B-2 stands out, lost in the temporal mists at a party that forever thinks its 1991 with its glittering stabs and cheeky, jacking beats. And although the overall feel of the record is one of functionalism over form, it’s still flecked with enough of Vincent’s sultry charms and ear for grooves to keep it going long into the night.

DJ SCSI – The Ghetto Tech 7 EP (Hard Beach Entertainment)

The four tracks of the Ghetto Tech 7 EP have apparently been culled from the late 90’s work of the mysterious DJ Scsi, a Detroit producer who might well be someone else, but for all intents and purposes seems to have vanished after a single release back in 1997. Although I’m more than aware that this scene was pretty much crowded out before the millennium dawned, it still feels like a shame Scsi hadn’t become better known because, based on this EP, he certainly deserves his moment in the sun.

Perhaps because the electronic has changed so much in the intervening years, The Ghetto Tech 7 EP , feels incredibly vital and lively; less a nostalgic trip back to an era lost in time and more a shot of rawness and fire that is sorely needed. The beats are brutal, both in their furious velocity and their gloriosly pared down, no bullshit, construction, and they propel the tracks with a vigor that’ll have you crying on the dancefloor if you lose focus for even a second. Bounce, and Detroit Boogie on the A side are sunny and deceptively light, particularly Detroit Boogie with inflects the beats with jazzy, soulful motifs which lighten the mood and draws smiles out of the dense rhythms.

The B Side ups the fury, and the fact that there are so few producers these days willing to cast themselves into storm wracked, 150 BPM+ hinterlands further serves to accent its rare energy. The trick has always been to wrap the speeds around something more human in scale; Lapdanz latches croaks of vocals and a wobbly bass to a gloriously old school breakbeat, diffusing the pent-up energy through its surprisingly happy-go-lucky attitude. Strictly 4 Da Jitterz just goes for it, balls out, with a furious, limb breaking, electronic storm that seems born for those moments in a DJ Stingray set where he chucks caution in the bin. A fine release. No, a great release, and one that should remind us that cutting loose and taking no prisoners is a cathartic release we all need more often than we might admit.