Published Jul 17, 2018Electronic music, as a medium, often faces challenges transitioning into an album format; consequently, many artists circumvent limitations by expanding on their rhythmically focused tropes. For Leon Vynehall's debut album for Ninja Tune, he took the opposite approach, writing a delicate history of his grandparents, and the result, Nothing Is Still, is a master class in storytelling and polish.
Borne of dusty Polaroids from his grandparents, Nothing Is Still was composed simultaneously with the writing of a novella (with Max Sztyber) that expands the narrative taking place. The novella chronicles the journey Vynehall's grandparents took to immigrate to New York in the 1960s. Stories of isolation, scarcity, hope and opportunity sprawl vicariously across both the novel and the album.
Significantly, one need not read the novella in order to understand the stirring and intentioned musicianship. "From the Sea / It Looms (Chapters I & II)" conjures images of a creaking ship approaching a new land; "Movements (Chapter III)" reimagines the minutia of life in lush melancholy; and in "Envelopes (Chapter VI)," letters from a far away place are painted as nostalgic vignettes.
This is all accomplished without relying on Leon Vynehall's conventional club maxims. His ever-emotive music is composed with airiness and precision, as opposed to crunch and drive — a tangible choice, driven by the subject matter, and the significance that Vynehall places on the weight of putting out an album. "It would've been a disservice to just do dance floor numbers," he says. Far from a disservice, what Vynehall has accomplished exceeds all expectations from an artist reared in house and techno. Nothing Is Still serves as a career milestone, where the artist's future now rests comfortably as both a dance-floor marshal, and as an effective raconteur.