Every time Leon Vynehall releases new music, you’re guaranteed a fundamental level of coherence. The British producer is a quiet, cerebral guy, and his long-form statements communicate rich themes and a solid sense of structure even though they’re largely wordless. His 2014 breakthrough, Music for the Uninvited, explored house music’s queer history and Vynehall’s own childhood memories, like his mom’s handmade mixtapes and N64 games. Sultry follow-up Rojus, from 2016, used ornithological samples to trace the arc of a single night out dancing.
On Nothing Is Still, his first studio album for venerable UK label Ninja Tune, Vynehall mines a piece of family lore: his grandparents’ emigration from England to New York City more than 50 years ago. But instead of using the story to frame another collection of jazzy, humid club cuts, Vynehall changes course. More deliberate and expansive than any of his other releases, the album moves beyond the dancefloor by incorporating traces of ambient and modern classical music.
Nothing Is Still isn’t a radical reinvention—it relies on the same sumptuous palette Music for the Uninvited and Rojus used—but it does deconstruct Vynehall’s established sound. The parts that make up lengthy bangers from earlier in his career, like “It’s Just (House of Dupree)” and “Blush,” are distributed across multiple songs, forcing you to focus on individual elements: the breathy sax drifting through “Movements (Chapter III),” the lusty grunts peppering the woozy “Drinking It in Again (Chapter IV),” the disorienting throb of “English Oak (Chapter VII).” Although it’s less engaging on a track-to-track basis, this approach yields an album that works through a much wider spectrum of emotions. Rojus was supposed to soundtrack an evening from start to finish, but it ended up hanging in place like a thick fog; Nothing Is Still swells and recedes. At its most intense—like the menacing second half of centerpiece “Trouble - Parts I, II, & III (Chapter V)”—the record can hit you like a punch to the back of the head.