Vick Lavender - The NiteFlyte "Jessie's Journey" EP (Forbidden Dance, 2020)
Updated: Aug 1
When music soundtracks those moments of ethereal travelling and emotive searching, it must be the latest timeless record from the iconic Vick Lavender.
A lot of music is made for the soul, and has been throughout history, but its fairly rare to come across producers who are able to occupy the soul as much as the mind. Within electronica, it isn't uncommon for musicians to look to attain that duality in relation to the compositions they push, in that the level of artistry matches the technicals but also there is so much vision embedded into the songs that you begin to really feel and connect to what the artist behind it is truly trying to say. Its the moments when you become embedded and invested in the sonic beauty of it all, an honest attempt to work and operate within a spectrum that opens up, transporting us away to a realm of imagined possibilities. The kind of music that allows for the pictures and images of faraway places, distant scenarios and realities to merge and blend with our own personal experiences, a fusion of the known and understood with the unknown. Its when a producer really explores how multiple layers can feed into and build up an overall picture of sound, in that chordal arrangements and beats do much to craft the undertone of their message, all the while on top of proceedings we see all the narratives, interactions and feels begin to leap out at us, a story to be told that suddenly becomes so well versed and conceived that it could continue on into the next life. These kinds of tunes exist to sustain and push forward, their tonal and musical outputs something to pass wonderment on, music to believe in and to invest much into, as it gives so much back to us. Its because these tracks provide hours of constant enjoyment, crafting connections to us as mentioned before operate on numerous levels and exist purely to be considered and dwelled upon, their emotive and textural qualities allowing us to take a break and just take it all in. In many ways, Deep house artists, particularly those who honed their craft in the 90s, displayed these kinds of ideals on multiple occasions, as the genre developed from its late 80s blue print into a musical ideology that paired jazz inputs with big expansive beat structures, fused emotive and deep set chordal arrangements with the lightest of keys, and above all else injected a big heft dosage of possibility and endlessness into the mix - it was just about the sound and feel anymore, or just about the dance, but in some ways it became about the ambition and the limits of it all. Wherein some cuts spent a significant amount of time dwelling on the groove, only the best deep house tracks from this time period made it their goal to build on that via intelligent melodic arrangements and ethereal evocative atmospheres, and these are the cuts that still resonate with us to this very day.
Vick Lavender is very much one of these producers who has been operating within these realms for quite some time now, and his music speaks for much of what we covered in the opening paragraph. His approach to crafting music has always existed within the realms of deep house, but his expanded vision for what the genre is capable of has always allowed for constant re imagination of his sound, in that many of his releases have looked to build upon the extents and possibilities of his sonic landscapes. The music always has a hypnotic feel to it, in that his productions have unfathomable depth and feel to them, with numerous levels of tones and textures conjuring up real moments of magic for us to keep coming back to, time and again.
His discography reads like a mind map through a career of unbridled experimentation and tonal perfection, with each release simply fuelling his musical landscape just a bit more each time, the essence of his music acting as the thread that hangs it all together so beautifully. A musical journey that began in the late 90s still remains as relevant and thought provoking as ever, which is testament to Lavender's skill and subtle flair as a producer and music maker, with his newer releases packing as much of a punch as his celebrated early works. In many ways, his music has become even more thought provoking over time, not to say that his early works were worse, far from it, but he has embraced the notion of truly delving into the raw potential of house music - how much into it can you delve? where does the well of potential end? Lavender it seems is on a mission to find out. Be it music released under his own name, or as a member of Strictly Jaz Unit, Cafe Soul and Mr A.L.I, you just know with Lavender that its going to hit you hardest in the most gentle way possible, caressing our soul and warming our hearts each and ever time. We have selected some truly superb highlights from his back catalogue, which include the track 'Wish', his contribution to the Nite Life Collective compilation 'Sounds Of The Windy City', that arrived in 1997, the track itself a truly god like 90s deep house track; his debut EP, 'P.M. Blues', a superb series of deep house groovers that sounds as magnificent now as it did back then, that landed in 1999; the future jazz groover that is 'Let It Go - Part One', that arrived in 2013 and featured Diviniti on vocals; the amazing 'The Real Thing' EP from 2014; the wonderfully evocative 'Rescue Me' EP from 2016, that featured the incredible vocals of Spike Rebel; the truly incredible 'The Nature' record, that showcased Lavender at his most jubilant and musically expressive, that arrived last year; the sensational '.4.4.5 (Where It Started)' record, again from last year; and the equally brilliant 'Shifting Gears' record from this year, simply top notch stuff. From his Strictly Jaz work, one to recommend is the timeless 'Future Parables' LP from 1997, where Lavender occupies production and arrangement duties alongside Glenn Underground, Brian Harden and Boo Williams no less, so check the shit out of that one. In all, Lavender has embraced the ideals of exploration through time and space, with each release demonstrating his talents but also his ever expanding vision for what his music conveys and what it really means. When engaging with a Lavender record, be it from his debut, through to his present records, you always feel the same vibe running through it, but theres a timeless layer on top that only comes from the very best. We couldn't recommend taking a journey back through one of the most masterful house producers out there.
And now we arrive at his latest outing, the 'The NiteFlyte "Jessie's Journey" record, that arrives as the debut album on the Croatian imprint Forbidden Dance. Much like with Lavender's latest pieces, its a record that defies expectation the second you walk into it, with its sultry swagger matched by the peerless flow of melodies and percussive structures that will transport you to other realms and planets in no time. It strikes a chord from the off, with each track displaying a slightly different feel but never deviating from its journey towards melodic euphoria, the ebbs and flows that persist from the intro to the outro will have you coming back time and time again. It's one for the late nights, the cruising or just the relaxing, every mood imaginable is covered, and we are all for it. So lets take a dip into this piece of magic.
First up comes 'Habano', and we are immediately thrown into proceedings right from the off. The drumming is straight up through the middle, but that only gives weight to the expressive steel drums that persist on top, giving the track an enormous amount of swing and groove. The tinkling of piano keys begin to float into view, their slow and subtle flickering matching the drums beneath, as the chordal stabs softly and gently slide into the left hand side of the picture, adding a perfect melodic bed for which the keys to express themselves. The melodic elements build and build until the bass line aligns itself within the track, adding yet another perfectly placed feature within this sea of gorgeousness, with all manner of cosmic like key lines jumping and rising from the waves lapping underneath. The manner in which the track floats between melodic sections is top draw, allowing all manner of incredible moments to jump forth and prosper, the overall vibe of proceedings one that really does take the breath away. The track then slows down for a second, before jumping right back into it with the vocals, provided here by Yvette Magallon, which do an amazing job at pushing the track forward into new realms, the groove that introduced itself at the beginning holding it down. The track then moves through its more regimented sections, which are so perfectly crafted that we get this unreal sense of joy whenever Lavender decides to introduce more free flowing elements, giving the track such passion and life, and the introduction of the repeating vibraphone line is truly inspired. The track then breaks it down for a moment, allowing the melodic features to streamline themselves and give over a little bit of focus to the drums, that then lead us right back into the full on groove, and the tune then just plays itself out from there. Fucking masterful. Up next we have 'The Definition', and we arrive in more calm waters but by no means less energetic or composed. The swirling keys and chords do much to capture our hearts and minds, layered and connected superbly, before the kicks then hit right through the middle, and we are away! the arrangement of all the layered melodic sequences and features is very special indeed, giving a sense of Lavender's arrangement qualities, with the track moving into new realms seemingly with every passing minute, taking its time to build up the melodic sensibilities before diving down time and time again, with the flows into the break downs feeling particularly inspired and meaningful. The mix between the rising chordal lines and the textured vibraphone sequences make for compelling listening, and provide such a wonderful contrast on an audial level within the track, as we remain gripped within the vice like lock of this songs power. The way in which the varying sequences begin to riff off of each other is pretty powerful indeed, and this relationship sees the song begin to wind down towards its end goal, with all its goals achieved. Truly amazing stuff.
To finish up, we have the title track, and it begins off in particularly compelling surroundings. The light rhythmic undertones lie under a series of wonderfully tonal chords, that seem to bounce and feel and groove with such purpose and meaning, and the set up to this track becomes complete with the drums that lightly kick underneath it all, as the cosmic synth line adds further to the intrigue. By this point we are really invested in everything this track has to offer, its wondrous tone and feel one you could hold in the palm of your hand until the ends of time, its vibe something to behold, with the added keys and vibraphone once again adding a textural quality unlike no other we have heard before. The feel moves and ebbs between the rising chordal lines and the full rich textural sequences, gracefully rising and reaching for the stars before slumbering back down to earth with all the feels we could ask for, and that is all we wish to say about this track. Its perfection, and the most fitting end to a record that is surely up there with the very best of this year.
Well now, that was something very special indeed. There's something to be said about Lavender's ability to blend so many melodic lines and features together, moving between the layers with such ease and grace, allowing us to weave around with him with every single new introduction. Every single corner of this record is utterly compelling, the music seemingly getting better with each passing moment, never content to sit back and remain still but to leap and abound with joy, passion and melody. If you wish to see how expressionism within house music should operate, then Lavender's music is the epitome of that statement, its craftsmanship of the highest order. And we couldn't praise him enough for it. Stunning in every sense of the word, and perhaps the finest little EP you will hear all year.
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