Played at extreme volume Levantis’ debut takes on a sinister vibe as the bass shudders your very being
Levantis is the side project of a very high profile producer, do a little digging and you’ll find out who, but finding out Levantis’ true identity doesn’t take anything away from this collection of songs. They show not only a musician at in his prime, but also someone who isn’t afraid to take risks. The first thing that strikes you after playing Romantic Psychology 1 a few times is the lack of beat. I’m not saying Levantis has gone all ambient and Brian Eno, but the beats aren’t the main event here. Texture, tone and their interplay are stars. Through airy, almost translucent composition Romantic Psychology 1 is a silent protest to all the balls to the wall 4/4 dance/electronic albums out at the moment.
Exploding Boxes opens the proceedings with a simple loop that gets manipulated and re-manipulated until it bears no resemblance to its original form. It’s Levantis saying “This is the way it’s going to be. Don’t take anything for granted. This is just an iota of what I’m capable of. Sit back and enjoy the ride”. Red Blocks is a similar piece. Through use of lower frequencies and studio shading, it is a murky downbeat, almost dub in places, trip to the dark side. Peaks are built up and slowly dissolved to create a constant feeling of movement. Played at extreme volume it takes on an even more sinister vibe as the bass shudders your very being. After to slow burners, Yogurt picks up the pace a bit. A simple vocal loop is the back bone of the track while synths and, an almost hidden beat, glide over and under. Pieris Rapae sounds like the Terminator soundtrack remixed by deviants for their own nefarious purposes. Like Yogurt it is in stark contrast to the opening.
Undr, Stained Glass and Whispering Sky use glitchy effects and electronic buzzes to create a feeling of unease, whilst never losing sight of the songs purpose. Altered Anthem is an ephemeral shot in the arm that skews and meanders while the main hook gets stuck in your brain. This is the catchiest song on the album. The remaining four songs work as a suite, and really hammer home the point and themes of the first two thirds of the album. Dissonance seeps from the speakers as melancholic loops and samples intermix with delicate piano and throbbing basslines. Penultimate track Jamaican Greek Style is the stand out of the album. In just under ten minutes it mixes intricate guitar and synth riffs, all backed up by a never rhythmic beat, reminiscent of a heartbeat that carries everything to its logical conclusion.
Ninja Tune have a knack of releasing albums that complement each other, even though they were recorded in total isolation. This year has seen the release of King Midas Sound and Fennesz-Edition 1, Simbiosi-Elements, and now they have released Levantis’ debut Romantic Psychology 1, to finish this unofficial trilogy. There is a weird form of synergy going on that links these three albums. While they don’t really sound a-like, there is a common theme to them that is hard to ignore. Edition 1 is a semi beatless journey into the ether. Elements is an unrelenting and castigating collection of songs that takes no prisoners and pulls no punches and Romantic Psychology 1 is somewhere between the two. Part ethereal, part punisher, but ultimately fascinating and exquisite.
Romantic Psychology 1 is the kind of album that Ninja Tune have been putting out for years. It goes against the grain of the contemporary scene, but it totally accessible and enjoyable. Compositionally it’s lack heavy beats, but subtle use of tone and texture makes it a perfect soundtrack to journey’s home, dinner parties and chilling out, but if you have the opportunity, playing this really loud, on a decent system yields even better results. You suddenly grasp what Levantis was striving for and why this is such a bewitching album.