L-Vis 1990 has always been an exciting producer to follow. As co-founder of Night Slugs and slightly different from his family there in terms of collaborations and associations outside their familiar circles, it seems like a logical and much-anticipated step for him to be one of the first from the NS subdivision to come out with a full-length album, set to release on PMR Records this week. The album, entitled “Neon Dreams”, has largely been infused by studio sessions in New York and Paris, with Cubic Zirconia member Nick Hook and Para One respectively. On numerous occasions, James Connolly has mentioned his intention to create his debut as a journey first and foremost, with an underlying ambition to conceive an album that pays respects to, and perhaps even falls in line with late-nineties standalone classics, like Daft Punk, Chemical Brothers and Basement Jaxx. The result is one that does indeed contest to these reflections, but only partially.
As an album, “Neon Dreams” starts off beyond strong, embarking on a journey with a crystal-clear mission alongside deep-rooted foundations to be heard back in its arrangements. “Vague Flashes” is a captivating introduction monologue by Corey Black, pre-emptively embracing the overall adventurous atmosphere of the album and acting as a premonition of what is yet to come. Proceeding this is “Forever You”, a track that’s familiar to all of our ears and has now come to fulfill its role as a first glimpse of this full-length record from the previous eponymous EP on Night Slugs. In a way, this use of track arrangement is a strategic move: at this stage, “Forever You” acts as a trip down memory lane, reminding us of why we came to love L-vis 1990 in the first place with a track that has seemingly not found any wear and tear with time.
What follows is substantial music that saturates, even exceeds, our appetites of high expectations with compositions such as “The Beach” and “I Feel It”, which hold on to familiar strengths of Connolly as a producer but at the same time assimilate new styles and influences into it effortlessly, functioning as proof of the ‘futuristic’ sound that everyone has apprehended for him. “The Beach” is probably the most stand-out track of the entire album, embedded with intricate detailing, apparent Chicago-house influences and reverie-like vocals that completely engulf you. “I Feel It” builds further on these strengths with an absolutely impeccable build-up of vocals that are introduced towards the end, almost sounding like a lost nostalgia track that belongs on the Drive soundtrack. The immediate sense of timelessness that these tracks achieve is striking and it fulfills a certain transcendental victory which completely conquers the listener in an instant and will most probably last for decades, if not forever, a trait that every musician strives for.
However, somewhere down the road the mood that has been set shifts. The initial impression that you’re left with has a very clear ambience to it, but there is a point at which the different integrals that make up the influences of this album don’t add up. “Shy Light” is one of these breaking points, a track whose qualities seem bizarrely out of place in the context of this album. The exaggerated use of autotune and strangely detached beats hit you unexpectedly, don’t come across as very well thought through and make it almost a nerve-wrecking song to listen to. This disconnected feel can also be found in “Illusions”, whereas “Cruisin'” also has that odd vibe to it, but for this track it works as an intriguing, slow-burning and fascinating factor rather than being confusing. That being said, there are certainly more good tracks along the way such as “Tonight” with the type of vocals that spell out pure summer, the ultra-smooth “Play It Cool” and “Neon Dreams”, which sounds the most loyal to Night Slugs origins with its blaring horns and contagious rhythm that point towards the likes of Kingdom and Girl Unit. Each collaboration with the immensely talented Bristol-native Javeon McCarthy also remain on-point, as the combination of Connolly’s productions and McCarthy’s vocals make for an unmistakably good collaboration each time.
It’s undeniable that there is a good number of tracks here that are nothing short of amazing, but the injection of certain untread grounds have not proceeded organically, and end up feeling rather unnatural on the album. Despite its overall tone that is continuously pleasing and certain success in paying its respects to its late-nineties inspirations, this album ends up lacking in cohesion because of the inconsistencies that ensue halfway through. Perhaps a traditionally long album format is something that needed more time to process, and a distinct selection of the better half of this album would’ve made for a much stronger and more impactful short-length release as this might have done more justice to his tremendous talent as a producer. Even though L-Vis 1990’s debut has its unadulterated moments of sheer bliss, “Neon Dreams” is just a step away from what we love about him.
L-Vis 1990’s “Neon Dreams” is out on October 3rd via PMR Records.