Leon Vynehall – Rare, Forever [Ninja Tune]

Following on from the release of his debut EP in 2018, ‘Nothing Is Still’, Leon Vynehall has just launched another emotion rousing album, ‘Rare, Forever’ on our hankering ears. Prior to its release on April 1st, Vynehall described having an “identity crises of sorts, many self-imposed questions of purpose and doubt, and a year of global pandemic delay” as he built up to the album release. Whereas ‘Nothing Is Still’ reflects the emigration story of his grandparents from their lives in Southampton to the big city of New York during the 1960s, ‘Rare, Forever’ is perhaps intentionally rather lacking such an intimate backstory. Reflecting within, as is the narcissistic nature of art, Vynehall himself comments, he used this LP to “really channel” what he was feeling and question the growing sense of imposter syndrome revelling within. 

The cinematic genius of ‘Nothing Is Still’ is not completely lost in ‘Rare, Forever’ and it peeks through at times to remind us of Vynehall’s natural ability for creating ethereality. The album starts with delicate strings in ‘Ecce! Ego!’ building to create a mutation of the sound. Vynehall manufactures onto this a caphony of sounds that almost run over each other in exceptional harmony. The strings are glimpsed again throughout the clanging synth and Vynehall cleverly dances between them. ‘Farewell! Magnus Gabbro’ and ‘Alichea Vella Amor’ continue with Vynehall’s controlled snaking around the music. The former starting with a vocal sample saying “it just got to the point where I had had enough” and develops into a forlorn orchestral sound solemnly drifting around. It could almost be heard at your local classical music hall. However, there is a tantalising undertone of electronic patters that I am sure would prevent this from occurring, reminding me of ‘A1 Inside the Deku Tree’ one of Vynehall’s earlier releases. 

‘Snakeskin∞ Has-Been’ is distinctly more of a banger. The heady intoxicating beat implores you dance, and I defy anyone not to get involved. The soft vocal voice repeated above breaks up the harsh synthy thuds creating a beating harmony. For the third minute it is, and, with the awareness that this may sound childish, absolute pure fun; jumpy, fast with an electrifying siren that sporadically pops in. Heavier still is ‘Dumbo’ whose thundering rhythm creates a murky atmosphere. 

Another beautiful creation, and possibly my favourite, is ‘Mothra’, bouncy tinges of beat thrust around a backdrop of graceful strings that are almost voice-like in nature. These build, creating a jungle impression of sound, until suddenly it drops to silence and you are left longing for it to return. It does so with even more ferocity than before.

The LP finishes with ‘All I See is You, Velvet Brown’ a volatile finish, at the start an almost ferry like foghorn sound briefly jousts with smooth sax. The piece relaxes into this and becomes distinctly more jazzy, as if you really are in the dark corners of a jazz club. Still, Vynehall does not make it that simple and the piece gets darker playing a moody sound sample over wave like sounds and there it finishes. 

Created throughout the pandemic when many of us, Vynehall included experienced identity crises as we were thrust far from our worlds. Music and the dance becoming less and less tangible. It’s only appropriate that ‘Rare, Forever’ is released as it is easing. As we all begin to escape and breath again from the clutches of COVID-19, it’s notably indulgent to sit and listen to this LP whilst contemplating the sense of freedom that is looming closer and closer. 

“Rare, Forever” is out now on Ninja Tune and can be purchased on Bandcamp.

1. Ecce! Ego!
2. In>Pin
3. Mothra
4. Alichea Vella Amor
5. Snakeskin∞ Has-Been
6. Worm (& Closer & Closer)
7. An Exhale
8. Dumbo
9. Farewell! Magnus Gabbro
10. All I See Is You, Velvet Brown

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