For New York native Levon Vincent, the sound of the city is the sound of home, a space he understands inherently and intricately. The DJ and producer is a bit of a nomad, having adopted Berlin and London as home, but it’s the streets, sounds, and culture of New York that’s truly shaped him His latest album Silent Cities is an ode of sorts to the landscapes and soundscapes of the city, recorded during lockdown in a desolate Berlin. It’s a departure from his usual big room techno, instead taking shape as glitchy, steadily unfolding pieces of electronica.
Silent Cities explores the urban environment from a domestic point of view, a collection of slow burning tracks that pull from hip-hop, krautrock, and ambient. Vincent is concerned with the quieter aspects of urban life; outside of the usual hustle and bustle. Instead, Silent Cities crawls through its cityscape carefully and with ease, creating little sonic dioramas of life in Levon’s imagined metropolis. Naturally, the music moves through shades of light and dark. Sunrise brims with a hopeful optimism, a sparkling arpeggio waxing and waning across lively and at times epic percussion. You can almost feel the streets of this city come to life. Gattaca is led by a pensive piano riff that’s both cosy and melancholy, recalling the energy of a daily commute. Vincent explores the darkness and grime of city life on tracks like Birds and Wolves. Birds is an ominous trap formulation with scattered beats and grinding industrial accents, while the trip-hop of Wolves lurks with a sense of danger and tension from its sub-bass booms before eventually growing into a triumphant synth anthem.
Vincent manages to create an experience that’s utterly immersive, mostly in part to the way he allows the music on Silent Cities to grow and evolve. His work on analogue synthesisers gives the music a familiar, nostalgic feel, and suitably borrows from the urban futurism of city pop and synthwave. Fusing this modality with the street sensibilities of hip-hop and the dreaminess of shoegaze makes for a visceral and often gorgeously crafted experience. Vincent has expressed how Silent Cities diverges from the dancefloor preoccupations of his previous work, suggesting the album is best understood on headphones while meandering through a city. The forlorn chords of the title track capture this energy; an exploration of all the things the city has to offer while on a journey with no clear destination. It’s music that sweeps you up in its complexity and attention to detail, a stunningly realised body of work that shows that there’s more to Levon Vincent than pummelling four on the floors.