- Leon Vynehall makes house music with the heart of a singer/songwriter and the soul of '90s hip-hop. Samples are treated like memories—captured, cherished and shared—and songs tell stories that play out like secondhand déjà vu. The Brighton-based artist used childhood keepsakes to write his breakout record, 2014's Music For The Uninvited. Pieces from his mother's record collection, old video games, mixtapes and more built the foundation for seven flawless tracks, which ranged from bright and wistful to lush and groovy. Vynehall wanted to produce music for dancing as much as he wanted to reveal a part of himself, and that balance was enchanting.
Subsequent records have held the even keel: "Butterflies" was a filter-house bomb with personality to spare, and "Midnight On Rainbow Road" set dusk-lit kosmische against a beatless shimmy. Even these standalone singles seemed to speak to something beyond dance floors, as murmurs of musical history bled into Vynehall's emotional palette. Gone were the low-hanging thrills of "Brother" and "Gold Language," replaced with a range of influences (disco, soul, jazz, etc.) that showed an artist digging deeper into his craft.
Rojus, then, takes a step back. Two years after Music For The Uninvited marked Vynehall as a crossover success, his second "mini-LP" stays on the fertile ground of breezy, sample-based house. "Saxony," one of its best tracks, is a Mood Hut-like groover full of balmy atmosphere and delicate flourishes. How the dusty piano chords in "Paradisea" filter around live bass notes evokes "Butterflies" heard on a yacht at sunset. It all vibrates with the energy of a meticulous yet easygoing producer, whose attention to detail supercedes raw personal expression. And that's the difference here: Vynehall has left the spotlight to focus on his surroundings. Where his best music was like reading pages from a diary, Rojus can feel like a passionate retelling of memories that were never his.
A less personalized record would be no problem—after all, this is music made for dance floors first and foremost—if only there were more highlights packed into it. Rojus is quality across the board, no doubt, but it never surpasses expectations. That sense of normalcy hits by the third track, when "Beau Sovereign" anchors to a trite vocal loop ("Your love is all I want / Your love is all I need") and can't elevate itself above orchestral stabs and a simple house beat. From a distance, the tune could pass for Disclosure.
Later, "Blush" hopes to take on the role of "It's Just (House Of Dupree)," but it overshoots the anthemic, floor-filling sweet spot—those gaudy diva cries and sweeping strings soon grow tiresome. Rojus also can't match the weightless beauty of "Inside The Deku Tree" and "St. Sinclair." Though "Beyond This…" is an alluring opener rife with melodic color and graceful movement, its counterpart, "...There Is You," is a bright, percussive fling that leaves the record feeling open-ended.
Rojus is the Lithuanian word for "paradise," which is the core theme here. Vynehall strings these eight tracks together with recordings of tropical birds and their mating calls, meant as a metaphor for club-goers intermingling on a night out. It's an interesting enough concept but is ultimately too self-contained. For all the clatter and glow of "Wahness," there's no depth beyond its slinky groove, nor does life emanate from the abundance of birdsong and hand drums in "Kiburu's." As much as Vynehall intended, Rojus illustrates a hidden place, distant and uninhabited.
A1 Beyond This...
A3 Beau Sovereign
D2 …There Is You