words by Bernie Bolger

It’s hard not to applaud artists such as Leon Vynehall who, within their labeled genre prove to seep through prerequisites to create something more remarkable than a fashion/trend; this is especially true in dance/house music.

Leon Vynehall’s past work – more notably ‘Music for the uninvited’ and ‘Open’ has put him on the music map as one blazing trails off it. Most recently, he has teased his new material in a stellar BBC Essential Mix which received plenty of acclaim.

Rojus (Designed to Dance) is a loosely thematic album or “piece” (a label Vynehall thinks is more appropriate for what he is creating) that goes beyond, without excluding, the cliche of an almost continuos flow of music and ambience throughout the 50 minute running time. The idea of mirroring birds of paradise and their mating dances with sweaty club dance floors is somewhat quirky and original. With this in ones mind while listening, the music does well to paint glorious landscapes and spaces with each new track. The development of a theme also allows the listener to extend the experience with their own imagination, the music then being a magnificent enabler, like the soundtrack to a film.

Opener ‘Beyond this’ lays the foundation of the piece and doubles as a bookend with ‘There is you’. The spaced out vibe and lack of percussion is a relative low point for the album yet is excusable and fitting as an intro to the next song.

Fresh sampled kicks and claps bring in ‘Saxony’ (a fine, three-ply woolen yarn), a chilled, bass-line-driven, number with sprinkles of the paradisiacal image dropped by the choir vocals and harp strums, a great mix with the more familiar percussion and bass lines. The next offering ‘Beau Sovereign’ sees us walking into a darker area of the figurative club. Despite the switch up, the repeating vocal line of “your love is what I want … is what i need” continues the ethereal vibe.

On my album favourite ‘Paradisea’ (one Vynehall fans have been hanging out for for a long time) a single piano chord ties the entire song together with what can only be described as a great musical arrangement. A whizzed out delayed synth drops in occasionally, but not enough to predict, and is used in great with relation to the simplicity of the song. ‘Wahness’ continues down a very similar path with slightly more emphasis on the drum track. It is undoubtedly groovy but doesn’t develop beyond a certain point where other Vynehall songs would.

‘Blush’ returns the oomph to Rojus (Designed to Dance), leading out with amazing re-pitched samples of birds (I‘m guessing). Piano and strings are the heavenly weapon of choice, while the bass feels like its just sitting in for the ride (until sections with a lighter instrumentation show its strength). The single ‘Kiburus’ ended up being a great insight into the full project. Again here, the percussion track glues the entire mix while strings, pianos and vocal chops flow around this foundation in a trance like groove.

With Rojus (Designed to Dance), Vynehall has succeeded in creating an album that like his previous work, can work in a club environment just as well as study or meditation music. This is a feat in itself and a testament to the beautiful textures and grooves he has conjured. My only reservations with the album (and I’ve had to think long and hard to find any) are some small rehashes in rhythmic motifs and themes. This is to be expected in what is at its core a dance release, and is definitely excusable in that light. However, a further exploration into the “paradise” and the novelty of dancing birds may have been achieved through swerving away from safe 4/4s. Without nitpicking for the sake of it, the music would not be the same without this element of repetition and therefore its necessary inside the umbrella of the style.

Rating: ★★★★

Leon Vynehall’s Rojus (Designed to Dance) is available now from iTunes and on Spotify.

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