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Album Review: Leon Vynehall – Nothing Is Still
Nothing Is Still is an immersive ambient project, and represents a drastic change from Leon Vynehall’s previous work, writes Music editor Harry Hetherington
Following several impressive house EPs, Leon Vynehall has taken a left-field turn with Nothing Is Stil: a conceptual, experimental album. Since the 2014 release of Music for the Uninvited, Vynehall has become synonymous with the UK house resurgence, including his best-known track, ‘It’s Just (House of Dupree)’. On this, though (his debut LP), he slows the pace down, producing an introspective album akin to his ambient contemporaries, particularly Tim Hecker and Oneohtrix Point Never.
As with Hecker’s Virgins or Ravedeath, 1972, the album is fragmented into chapters, parts and footnotes. On the album’s opener, ‘From The Sea / It Looms (Chapters I and II)’, strings emerge from the gloom of twinkling pianos in the first half of its six-minute length. The second part features razor-sharp synths like a giant insect’s wings in air, giving the song a huge, cinematic feel.
“(Vynehall) slows the pace down, producing an introspective album akin to his ambient contemporaries
‘Movements (Chapter III)’, the album’s highlight, employs a jazzy, skipping beat layered beneath a catchy bassline and dissonant horns. The song has a markedly ‘cool’ feel, following on from such a grand album opener, and you can trace its lineage back to songs on Vynehall’s earlier, funkier records. This is also apparent on ‘English Oak (Chapter VII)’, all splayed-out violins and house beats. ‘Envelopes (Chapter VI)’ is Vynehall’s most melancholic song yet; the strings used in previous tracks are re-framed in a despairing tone, and become tremulous, on top of a slow hip-hop beat.
Nothing Is Still’s most striking point comes in ‘Trouble – Parts I, II and III (Chapter V)’. Vynehall, as so often the case, creates an immersive synthetic soundscape, which then gives way to cold, thudding bass that sounds huge and animalistic. Here, as with the album’s other standout tracks, Vynehall injects just the right amount of organic sound into the album’s darker corners. The suggestion of animal or human presence runs through Nothing Is Still. On ‘Envelopes (Chapter VI)’, we catch what sounds like gentle footsteps in the rain and a plane flying overhead, and on ‘Julia (Footnote IV)’, a voice muses on what she searches for in others.
“Vynehall (...) creates an immersive synthetic soundscape, which then gives way to cold, thudding bass
As many ambient albums tend to, Nothing Is Still will leave you scrambling to find a main focal point that ties it all together, and the relative lack of closure towards the end of the album may frustrate some listeners. However, Vynehall does more than enough to compensate across the album, combining the grandiose with the understated, organic with synthetic, to stunning effect.