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Silent Cities

Levon Vincent | Novel Sound | NS-46

£13.00

New cassette only 'downtempo' album.

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Format: Tape
Levon Vincent returns with his fourth full-length studio album Silent Cities a striking departure from his previous records. This, his first release experimenting with the cassette format, Silent Cities is a kind of mixtape through more private moods and personal pitches (literally given Levon’s non-standard tunings).

While Levon has always produced dance floor jams with the intention of raising people’s heart rates, Silent Cities began with 72 bpm: his average resting heart rate, and the concept of tuning the music he was making to his own body rather than increasing anything. This brought the tempos down to 72 bpm or even half of that, at 36bpm. Programming the record during the empty cityscape of Berlin lockdowns, this is the first time Levon’s created an album for the home stereo or for headphone listening whilst navigating through a city. A mixtape specialist in his youth; he was always wanted to play with the cassette format. The results are sure to delight any listener, with the ever-present ambient, krautrock, shoegaze, hip-hop and electro influences coming to the foreground on this work.

“I was expanding further along the lines of a surprise favourite from my previous LP, a song called She Likes To Wave To Passing Boats which was not a 4 on-the-floor piece to play in clubs but a more impressionistic piece of music that I wrote to expound some emotions one day” says Levon. “It was a song written using just intonation. I really love how warm the pure 4ths sound, so when working on the new LP Silent Cities I decided to use my own tunings”.

Historically, the use of just intonation has meant that such instruments could sound "in tune" in one key but at the expense of more dissonance in the other keys. None of the songs on Silent Cities use standard Western equal temperament, Levon created his own scale designs coupled with the ancient ratios found in just intonation.

Born in Houston in 1975, Levon’s life changed dramatically when his parents moved their family to New York in 1981, uprooted from what he knew, the shock, the change from Houston to New York at 6 years old, is referred to constantly in Levon’s Musical output over the years. Levon's family moved houses in and around NYC from 1981 -2010, never more than a mile or two from the WTC. He lived on the Lower East Side during his teenage years and early 20s. This time period and this locale are also a big theme recurrent in his music as he tries to convey how the "downtown" lifestyle and culture-melding affected him so much at a tender age. He cut his teeth working in record shops around lower Manhattan, and while working at the Halcyon Record shop in Brooklyn he (alongside DJ Jus-Ed) was instrumental in creating the wave that came to be known as the "NYC House Renaissance" circa 2010. During the Y2K years he studied 20th C post-minimalism at Purchase college of New York under James McElwaine (who tangentially produced Man Parrish’s Self-Titled proto-hip-hop debt LP). Levon was fortunate to study theory with avant-garde composer Dary John Mizelle and orchestration under conductor Joel Thome. He undertook masterclasses with Philip Glass and also served as intern for John Kilgore, engineer for Steve Reich, where he was present for notable mix sessions such as “Violin Phase.”

Post-minimalism clearly remains an influence not to mention the early sampler stars of 80s freestyle and synth pop. Mixing such far-reaching influences is something Levon executes tremendously well. The first track Everlasting Joy moves at a head nodding 96 BPM tempo, reflecting formative influences like Paul Hardcastle’s Rainforest or Art Of Noise’s Moments in Love. “Those types of songs were a big eye opener for me as a youth, because it was where I realised songs in popular culture didn’t have to be kept to just 3 minutes, and they didn’t require vocals either. So, Everlasting Joy is a song with that intention, one that might be radio-friendly, despite the long arrangement and without vocals. You could say it was inspired by 107.5 in NY because that was a station I listened to a lot in the 1980’s.”

The majority of demos on Silent Cities were recorded before Covid-19 hit the world - when Levon had found a studio space outside of home in his adopted city of Berlin. It was a career first - working on music outside the bedroom. This riding the train or bicycling ‘going to work’ in Berlin opened up a new mood in his music, using the time back and forth to be inspired - commuting as an NYC transplant who still feels as a tourist in Berlin, with a pair of headphones, looking out the window on the train, or stopping on bridges and parking his bike to enjoy Berlin's skyline and horizon. Then, the pandemic struck and “work” came to a halt. Levon had recorded so much material during that year in the studio out of house it seemed like an inflection point for him to lighten the burden of the possessions he was carrying.

“People close to me have watched me give away synths and hardware regularly and I have given away my record collection every few years for my whole life. As a struggling artist in my 20s who had worked in record stores that whole time, I learned that moving constantly with 12k records just wasn't the way to live. So, in light of the pandemic, I set up a shop online, and sold all my music equipment. I also created a separate shop for all my sneakers and clothes. Easy come, Easy go. This provided me with a slow drip type of income that carried me quite well through the pandemic and it allowed me to focus on my own art and music. Getting rid of all my possessions felt like a weight being lifted from my shoulders and I was able to stay the course and remain committed to the music. I needed a further 2 years to mix and arrange the LP. If it weren’t for the pandemic, I would not been able to make this type of LP, so in light of everything, I was able to turn a depressing time in to something lasting and musically very positive.”

You can hear how his approach to a cassette release retains the "Medium is the Message." ethos. Silent Cities is a spooling, warm piece about life memories and embodiment.

 

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Product:

Silent Cities

£13.00