Reviews: Levon Vincent – Birds (Novel Sound); Sev Dah – Proletarijat 002 (Proletarijat)

Sev Dah – Proletarijat 002 (Proletarijat)

I had a real soft spot for the work of Swedish techno bod Sev Dah when I caught his first couple of releases back around 2012. While, on the surface, there didn’t seem to be terribly much separating him from a lot of the other producers who were kicking around a deepened take on a form of fairly straight up techno – a sound that always seemed slightly over-infatuated with whatever the various members of Sandwell District were putting their name to that particular week – once you got past the surface noise, tunes like Otit or Premium quickly revealed themselves to have their ears pressed up to a pleasingly Maurizio-esque take on the genre. Even better, tracks like Normative or Phenotypic Effects swung with a hard, precise groove that pointed to Dah being a student with interests beyond whatever was currently in vogue.

Since then Sev Dah seemed to vanish for a while, before reappearing with a sound that felt somewhat tougher while still retaining many of his sonic themes. This second release on his own Proletarijat label, however, is more of a departure than previously. While much remains unchanged, at least on the surface, it lacks a bit of what made those original records such a joy. While this remains a more than competent take on the sort of icy, precise techno which is currently doing the rounds, it does so with a minimum of drama, preferring to propel itself towards a resolutely standard, big-room vibe without fuss or pretension. Opener Ustanak slides with a similar energy as Jeff Mills’ more recent material; a bleepy slice of deep-field techno which never feels quite as fierce as the tight rhythms would suggest. 152 opts for a more straight up approach, press-ganging some muscular toms in to lend a bit of subtle tribally thump to the proceedings, pushing the tune upwards and outwards and generally finding something grittier to latch onto.

For me, though, the stand out is the beatless Fallen Comerades. Aside from the welcome change of pace it offers from the more standard offerings elsewhere on the release, it reveals something of Dah’s musical mindset which is both deeper and bleaker than you might have suspected. I don’t tend to go in for what I’ve often, perhaps cynically, described as ‘ambient interludes’ but this is lovely; it hits you as the soundtrack to a brain shattering glimpse of an impossibly large netherworld where colour and sound are the same thing, and it beckons you, first with whispers, then with screams, until you take that final step over the threshold. Brutally Beautiful.

Levon Vincent – Birds (Novel Sound)

Although, for most people, Tubular Bells will forever be the soundtrack to The Exorcist, for me it is the sound of car journeys throughout the eighties, often after dark, as my Dad shuttled me around from one place to another. What can I say? It’s a part of my childhood and the whole album is eternally burned into my brain alongside folk music by the Furies, the Battlefield Band, and the Beatles. It’s the proggiest, rockiest thing that ever was, and that bit on the other side where the Devil sings a song had a strong effect on my Dungeons and Dragons burned mind.

Vincent himself is down as saying he expected most people to gravitate to the A-side, Birds. It’s not difficult to see why – it’s a cascading river of liquid acid that’s never anything less than utterly entrancing and expansive. It’s possibly my favourite track by him since 2012’s Stereo Systems, and it displays a similar lack of interest in what you might expect of him – Vincent is always at his most enthralling when he gives a free reign to his desire to see where things go.

But it’s the B-side which has garnered the most comments. Bells (Mike Oldfield) shouldn’t work. It’s more than rough around the edges; the sample sounds strangely shoehorned in; Oldfield is all sorts of uncool. And yet, and yet…..

Levon pulls it off. It conjures up a strange universe where that sample hangs in the half-light while the drums grow in strength and purpose. Rather than being the focus, the sample quickly becomes the fulcrum, orchestrating a descent into the deepest of grooves which removes any lingering doubt over whether this is some sort of novelty piece. Once again this is Vincent delving into the furthest recesses of his unique musical mind and coming up with something that feels primal yet sophisticated. You’ll come for Birds, but Bells will keep you there far longer than you ever imagined. No Soundcloud chunks for this one, so just go and buy the damn thing before you can’t.