Levon Vincent – Fabric 63 review
The manner in which an artist tackles a Fabric mix reflects – to an extent – what they’re like as a character, much like the often uncanny resemblance shared between dog owners and their pets. Some go down the conceptual route (Four Tet, Surgeon), while the likes of Ricardo Villalobos, Shackleton and Omar S choose to fill their mixes solely with their own material – a sign of supreme confidence in one’s own ability, any pop psychologist will tell you. Levon Vincent has chosen to pepper his entry into the Fabric canon with a mixture of his own tracks alongside material from the New York-based contemporaries he holds so dear, and it says a lot about the man.
Upon sitting down to interview Vincent in an East London café in 2010, the first thing that struck this writer about the American was an underlying sense of humility. Disenchanted by the zero tolerance law enforcement approach in the 90s that decimated New York’s nightlife, he took himself back to school to learn the intricacies of sound and production to, in his words “better understand why I am deeply affected by certain pieces of music, and why music gives me such exquisite experiences”. Thereafter began a slow but determined rise through the ranks, with Vincent paying tribute to the fatherly influence of Underground Quality boss Jus-Ed in particular.
These days Levon is a man with a plan. He’s mastered a slow-drip approach to releasing music on Novel Sound, and he has made a tactical move from his New York home to Berlin, allowing him to play more gigs in Europe. Vincent and New York are, and always will be, inexorably woven, and the producer’s musical heritage seeps through Fabric 63. The mix opens with Joey Anderson’s “Earth Calls”, with reverb-laden piano stabs, pinching strings and a throbbing kick jostling for attention. Vincent lets the track play for almost its entirety before mixing out (later in the mix his own track “Fear” is left to play uninterrupted for eight minutes), a nod to the cerebral mixing-not-mixing style pioneered by David Mancuso at The Loft.
The link between Mancuso and Vincent extends further; both are audiophiles, sharing a predilection for obsessive attention to detail when it comes to sound. Whereas Mancuso would spend hours fine tuning the acoustics of his home venue with a painstakingly assembled array of tweeters and sub-woofers, Vincent’s studies in the field of sound design have given him an academic understanding of musical structure, and how he can best subvert the norm, while still playing by the rules, to make his dancefloors quiver. He recently told Resident Advisor that throughout Fabric 63 (a vinyl-only mix) he never touched the record while it was on the turntable to speed it up or slow it down, and only used the pitch shifter – another Jedi-like trick employed by Mancuso.
And so Fabric 63 settles into its stride: the sensual deepness of Jus-Ed’s “Blaze (Do Dah Dab Mix)” eases into JM De Frias’ “Intrinsic Motivation”, with insouciant keys that pay homage to the Latin influences that have informed NYC’s dancefloors for decades. Soon after the first Vincent production appears – the hitherto unreleased “Stereo Systems” – which is as rich and dauntingly beautiful as anything he’s released. This leads into the beastly “Polar Bear” (stripped of its original and much more enjoyable title “Polar Bear Make Nice With That Sea Lion”). The mix’s centrepiece is another unreleased Vincent production, the aforementioned “Fear”, which plays out for eight minutes, with an echoey guitar riff destined to be one of the year’s most loved hooks.
By the time the mix reaches the second Joey Anderson production (the superb “Hydrine”), Vincent is clearly deep in the mix; it’s not hard to imagine him hunched over the decks in his basement, face locked in a Zen-like trance, sweat beading from his forehead. As the mix passes its halfway point, he dips into calmer, deeper waters, perhaps most poignantly with “The End” and the first of two Black Jazz Consortium tracks (“Blacklight”). Vincent’s own “Early Reflections” retains a hint of menace, while the electric strings of “Rainstorm” (another immense Vincent production) echo 80s UK synth pop, one of the producer’s earliest influences. By the time the needle reaches the runout groove on the utterly gorgeous “Far Away (Atmospheric Pass)”, Fabric 63 has asserted itself not only as a fine mix but an accurate representation of what Vincent is like as a man – confident, inclusive, proud.
1. Joey Anderson – Earth Calls
2. DJ Jus-Ed – Blaze (Do Dah Dab Mix)
3. JM De Frias – Intrinsic Motivation
4. Levon Vincent – Stereo Systems
5. Levon Vincent – Polar Bear
6. DJ QU – Times Like This
7. Levon Vincent – Fear
8. Levon Vincent – Double-Jointed Sex Freak II
9. Joey Anderson – Hydrine
10. Anthony Parasole – Tyson
11. Levon Vincent – The End
12. Black Jazz Consortium – Blacklight
13. Levon Vincent – Early Reflections
14. Levon Vincent – Rainstorm II
15. Black Jazz Consortium – Far Away