There is a lot to respect about Levon Vincent, but one of the main things is his keen sense of quality control. Over the years, he's stayed conservative and uncompromising when it comes to the music he presses and distributes. That said, while his output is usually pretty sparse, 2012 was a particularly silent year for him in terms of new 12" releases. Instead, his new material came in the form of short previews and teasers on mixes like his recent Fabric 63. Though not all of these anticipated bits have seen a proper release, some of them now appear in fully realized form on Stereo Systems, his latest EP.
Put simply, Vincent makes tracks for DJs. Streamlined and muscular, his is music that's designed to be placed in a larger set. This is immediately obvious with a-side "Stereo Systems," a stripped-down workout built over a pounding, kick-drum-only rhythm that conveys a feeling of travelling long distances. It's not a peak-time anthem, but instead something for a lull, with an inevitable forward motion that glides beneath the song's clouds of space echo and clusters of sharply arpeggiating melody. Like much of his discography, it's good, but by his own standards, it's too uneventful to be his best. The most interesting part comes at the end, when the song has finished. Silence is replaced by an entirely different piece, one composed of classically arranged analog chords playing without any rhythmic accompaniment. It's a strange but welcome bonus.
The record's real action is on the two b-sides. It begins with "Together Forever," a powerful and genuinely scary techno track. Like the a-side, it creates a huge environment from only a few well-placed elements. Here though, the rhythm is a little more dynamic, with rapid hi-hats and a white-noise snare thrown in for movement. The central element of the song is a heavily reverbed wash of delay that phases in and out of focus to occasionally consume the entire spectrum in its totality—it's dark and affecting in a way that's specific to his sound.
Less bleak and more developed is "Speck's Jam," the easy highlight of the EP. The rhythm is the most complex, with a New York-house shuffle that relies on swung hi-hats, noodling guitars, and live-played double bass to construct its weird jazz. The organic elements are left dry, a decision that creates a wide-open space for him to ease in watery pads of dub techno. Yet it never gets overbearing, instead maintaining its drive for the entire duration. Like the best of his catalog, its play of dynamics effortlessly combines aspects of house and techno into a unique whole. As the last song on the EP, it ties everything together and makes Stereo Systems another essential release from Levon Vincent.