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Leon Vynehall's Rojus turns a tropical club night into an intimate experience

Leon Vynehall's Rojus turns a tropical club night into an intimate experience


The British producer's new album is lush, generous, and a little sweaty

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Steve Braiden

If you want to get technical, Leon Vynehall still hasn’t released an "album." His 2014 breakthrough Music for the Uninvited gets called a mini-LP or an EP depending on where you’re looking, and his new collection Rojus is explicitly labelled a "double-pack." Whether it’s harmless humility or a consequence of electronic music’s attitude towards albums, it doesn’t really matter: his work has the length and conceptual heft typically associated with LPs. It should be treated with the same gravity. There aren’t many people making music this distinctive or vibrant in any form.

Vynehall found the inspiration for Rojus in a documentary about exotic birds’ courtship rituals and a visit to a Lithuanian museum. ("Rojus" means "paradise" in Lithuanian.) He designed the album to parallel a night spent dancing in a club, one where love (or something like it) is in the air. Each track is also peppered with the sort of natural sounds Vynehall heard in the documentary: bird calls, little tweets, predatory panting. (When "Beau Sovereign" opens up with heavy, cycling breath, you might find yourself wondering whether it’s supposed to be a jungle cat or an oversexed club-goer.) The entire album is moist, heavy, fecund. It may not capture the Amazonian jungle, but it’s at least as humid as your local sauna on a busy day.

It’s a different kind of intimacy than what Vynehall cultivated on Music for the Uninvited, an album that stood out because each new track felt like part of a personal statement. "Inside the Deku Tree" and "Christ Air" were journal entries, suggesting light breezes and video game paraphernalia jammed into childhood closets. "Pier Children" and "It’s Just (House of Dupree)" were history lessons, sampling obscure ballroom scene documentaries and paying tribute to dance music’s queer, urban roots. The music — bright, playful, and crackling — could stand on its own, but spending time with the album felt like getting to know its creator.

This album is always whispering something in your ear

Rojus looks outward where Music for the Uninvited looked inward. It can’t quite match its predecessor in terms of breadth or melody, but it makes up for it with sheer dance floor potency. It’s a focused, enveloping record, and it’s always whispering something in your ear. A mystery man on the other side of the room murmurs "without you" on "Wahness," caught between rubber-band percussion and a rogue tambourine. On "Beau Sovereign," a femme fatale speaks in urgent, hushed tones: "Your love, that’s what I want / your love is all I need." "Blush" and "Kiburu’s" are the album’s longest, most dense tracks, and together they make for a sprawling climax: dancers howling and barking, pianos emerging from the fray, tasteful cowbells. (I didn’t even know that was possible.)

Even though Rojus is designed to capture the feeling of a crowded, energetic public space, there’s still something introverted at its core. Think about all of the hiccups that can mar a night spent dancing: a befuddling coat check system, an expensive bar, the presence of obnoxious or aggressive patrons. It can be transcendent, but it can be a total bummer, too. Rojus tries to give you all of the ecstasy and none of the fuss. It’s a generous, sweaty fantasy, and it captures Vynehall’s distinct vision just as effectively as Music for the Uninvited did. The details are different, but the feeling is just the same.