There are a number of oxymoronic ironies about this release. Firstly, that a label set up with the intention of releasing singles should give an album unto the world. Second, that a label called Technicolor should release as said first album a record so imbued with a sense of greys and crisp monochrome vistas. Indeed, the album is inspired by “Nigredo and possession of the shadow”, Nigredo being the first stage of the alchemical process, meaning blackness, a state of putrefaction or decomposition. Romantic Psychology 1 is the “debut” full-length by the Levantis persona (an identity easily discovered, a mask not worth exploring for the purposes of this review), following a release for The Trilogy Tapes, and it sees the artist dig deep into a world of murk and sludge, stumbling awkwardly across a forbidding landscape. “Red Blocks”. “Colour”. “Slow Electronic Beat with Colour”. These track titles contradict the bleak darkness that underpins the album, only at times poking fun at the overall mood.
This album is short, it’s one that you can get through in a lunch-time wander around town, but it’s worthy of more than a scant listen. It comes to life with the mournful whirring of “Exploding Boxes”, which in essence is a chopped and screwed version of another track from the album. Dolorous bass, gurgling noises and recognisable melodies introduce a juddering, uncertain feel, which lasts throughout. It’s not an easy record; there’s no comfort to be found here. “Red Blocks” is utterly dank, a (relatively) lengthy trip into some shadowy fog. The distant piano tones of “Colour” are offset by throbbing, tuneless bass, while the listless stomp of “Whispering Sky” belies what may or may not be corroded samples underneath. “Undr”, which seems louder, harsher than the tracks around it, sticks out with its snarling, mechanical hiss and pinpoint laser drops (though these appear throughout the record, somehow working just as well in each frame of reference). What purpose does it serve, this brief, pulsing trip? It jolts the senses, being completely at odds with the dainty plod of “Yogurt” or the epic brevity of “Pieris Rapae”. In time its presence seems more and more apt, however, the pummelling mechanics as dank and oppressive as the bubbling hiss of “Stained Glass” immediately afterwards. Similarly, “Slow Electronic Beat With Colour” feels pithy after “Jamaican Greek Style”, the coda to the opening track’s exposition, but it lifts the listener up after what could have been an overly morose climax to the record. It’s a beautiful way to finish, showing unexpected lightness and humour. That said, it comes too soon.
To repeat: at just 32 minutes the album is short. Too short one might say. After hearing Ben UFO play all 10 minutes of “Jamaican Greek Style” on the Hessle Audio show in September, one might have expected that the album would be full of such lengthy jams. Alas, no. In some ways this further highlights the slow, unfurling majesty of that track, the penultimate number on this album, but on first play it all seems a bit disappointing. Yes, this succinct focus ensures the album never strays off its path, nor outstays its welcome; this greedy listener just wants more.
Levantis – Romantic Psychology 1 is out now on Technicolour Records.