One of the year's most fascinating records...

Few can build worlds with their music quite like Leon Vynehall. Many possess the ability to transport a listener or dictate a mood, but only a small number can trigger true immersion like him. ‘Rare, Forever’ adds to his intoxicating discography, unlimited in scope and undoubtedly Vynehall’s most ambitious yet, resulting in one of the year’s most fascinating records.

It’s an album which couldn’t exist without what’s come before. After sending dancers into a frenzy with early releases, his debut album ‘Nothing Is Still’ reined in his dancefloor sensibilities and found Vynehall tracing his family lineage and crafting an unexpectedly tender body of work. Most recently, he stepped up for an entry in the DJ-Kicks series, which took his storytelling to new heights. Best of all, ‘Rare, Forever’ is a triumphant reclaiming of these many strands, stretched across snatches of ambient beauty and dancefloor chaos.

Opening track ‘Ecce! Ego!’ is a loving nod to 'Nothing Is Still’s gorgeous orchestral flourishes, before those familiar violins are contorted and shattered to create something far more unsettling. It’s an important transitional moment, as the sound of old gives way to a mutated shudder. In a few short minutes, it sets the tone for what’s to come: a claustrophobic thrill ride which veers between beauty and bizarre at every turn. And Leon Vynehall sounds like he’s relishing being at the controls.

The gleefully unleashed ‘Dumbo’ is a sweltering, bruising drum workout, almost echoing the pounding feet of eager ravers, while ‘Snakeskin ∞ Has- Been’ matches it for rowdiness and, most alluringly, club readiness. Similarly, ‘Mothra’ can only be described as a wonky banger primed for peak time whereas ‘An Exhale’ stands as the album’s most dazzling moment, climbing to a jubilant crescendo of twinkling synths.

But it’s 'Rare, Forever’s strangest moments which shine the brightest. ‘Worm (& Closer & Closer)’ crackles with warped spoken word, ‘Farewell! Magnus Gabbro’ envelopes the listener in a suffocating swirl of menacing guitar feedback and, most enigmatically, an elusive figure only known as Velvet skulks its way in and out of the album’s sprawling narrative.

Embodying much of what we’ve missed about live shows, this is the sort of album that makes you grateful for them returning so soon. Breathless and perplexed with ears ringing, the live trip of ‘Rare, Forever’ will be a must witness.

8/10

Words: Lee Wakefield

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