Tying together many of the best elements of techno and house, Leon Vynehall has been producing some of the grittiest club music we have heard so far this century, while still keeping the ‘dance factor’ many artists lose when they go darker. His dedication to pounding 4 x 4 rhythms never deducts any soul from his music; an aspect I find both mesmerising and sublime. His latest release on 3024, the ‘Open EP’, keeps to his strictly business dance style and has one of my favourite tracks of the year on it ‘Step or Stone (Breath or Bone)’.
The opening track ‘I Get Mine, You Get Yours’ starts with a soothing 4 x 4 high hat pattern with a nicely morphed female vocal; something some artists get terribly wrong but here Leon has used it to great effect. In doing so he adds lashes of euphoria to what is essentially a simple beat. Then the synths get involved and it is here he shows his production genius; build ups erupt from nowhere with an extremely intelligent use of a flanger on the rather gritty synth. This creates even more atmosphere. Finally, the second drop incorporates all of the elements previously teased into one pounding mash up. This song would have the whole club on their feet without a doubt.
Up next is ‘Step or Stone (Breath or Bone)’, a techno/house personal favourite right from the first listen. It’s often difficult to categorise Leon’s music as one or the other because of his disregard for traditional sounds from each but the one thing that is certain is the vibes and energy of this tune are matched by little music. The simple analogue synth which comes in right at the start gives the tune its classic feel; the small variations throughout the ensemble explode into ecstatic patterns throughout keeping the piece fresh. The breakdown in the middle is another example of the musical capabilities of this man; the synth gets a fresh pattern and the build-up oozes anxious excitement. Before you know it, you are back in the main rhythm with the repetitive drums keeping your brain in an enlightened state of joy. This song man.
Heading further towards the minimal techno section, ‘I Know Your Face, Heroine’ is a slowed down monotonous spacey piece of music that takes you away into a world crafted by Leon through his deep rolling bass lines and out of time high hats. It’s a very relaxing piece of music and stands out from the rest of the EP as the laid back, chill out track.
From the very first beat of the final tune it is clear that the chilled vibe presented in track three has been well and truly thrown straight out of the window and it’s time to get that fist back in the air. ‘XVII (Rox Out)’ is a medley of drums to be reckoned with, it’s pounding kick drum echoing out violently behind a mash up of snares and high hats which seem to have been crafted purely with joyous disorientation in mind. Both build ups feature an absolutely genius pattern of kicks and snares, which create a groove just in time for the explosion of vibes at each drop. It’s genuinely a difficult tune to describe, and you need to hear it to believe it!
Listen to this EP, seriously, you just have to. The variation between styles and vibes show time and again why Leon Vynehall is a producer to keep your eyes on.
Written by Michael Thomas