Leif, Dinas Oleu

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[Fear of Flying]


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With its characteristic unresolved chords, measured unfurling, and taste for acoustic timbres, deep house is frequently described as lush. Dinas Oleu, Welsh producer Leif’s debut album, is as moving as the best deep house, but its sounds appear to have been laid in an isolation tank rather than planted in earth. An inky, endless sense of space extends outward from each drum hit, which wears trailing coronas of reverb. Each track comes across like a full-bleed snapshot of daily life intersecting with the club, the balance between the kitchen and the dance floor oscillating wildly. The album is surrounded by a soulful austerity, a self-knowing restraint and patience, that amplifies the sentiment.

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This album entrains the listener into Leif’s distinct sonic world systematically. As the arrangements reveal themselves one sample or rubbery synth line at a time, we get the sense we’re acquiring Leif’s language at the same time he’s developing it. Although Leif foregrounds his personality, Dinas Oleu isn’t short on intertextual moments. “Through Noise Pt. 2” wallops and knocks like the best Novel Sound releases, the cosmic sample bed of “Age of Aquarius” points to Deepblak, and “Stutter and Hum” comes off like a northern take on Claremont 56’s molten sunsets. The wildly competent, unassuming “Belief and Experience” skates by on the interjections provided by a rubbery, palm-muted synth and a propulsive, catching hi-hat loop. It sounds like something off of Lawrence’s Films & Windows, but with its emotional subtext dredged up from the seafloor. These glancing references are fleeting, though, exerting next to no influence on the course of things. Leif’s approach is more straightforward and elegant than collaging things together — it’s more like he’s translated the formal aspects of deep house into his own low-gravity environment.

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Indeed, Dinas Oleu moves like a sea creature. The swinging hi-hat loop that announces the album’s first dance cut, “Belief and Experience,” cuts decisively through the mix, humping along with the cadence of a fish sprinting and coasting through water. The first half of Dinas Oleu is spent crafting various exquisite variations on this formula, combining well-oiled propulsion with a crystalline dusting of sonic details. This kind of description would just as easily suit one of Leif’s peers, like John Roberts or Axel Boman. But Leif has a mien and technique all his own — something both more soulful than technical mastery and more polished than raw talent. The album’s most emotionally compelling track illustrates this dynamic: on “Stutter and Hum,” loose electric guitar notes flow and fumble over the rhythm’s measured chug. Just when it starts to sound like a lucky accident, Leif unleashes finely controlled torrents of delay-treated hi-hats, as if stereo were now a vertical proposition. That unassuming ability, to create spatial and emotional dimensions by paying strict attention to the gravitational pull of each piece of debris, marks Dinas Oleu as a genuinely superb album in a field where prettiness or vibes alone often compensate for structural or imaginative flaws. Fear of Flying low-key put this album out in late 2013, but I’m wagering that it can stand with the best that 2014 has to offer as well.

Sophie  on March 13, 2014 at 8:46 AM

One of my favorites from 2013. Excellent album and very good review.

jay  on March 13, 2014 at 11:47 AM

Lovely worded review, thanks guys. For those who are interested, please note that the CD, download and vinyl is cheaper direct from us via our Bandcamp page – https://fearofflying.bandcamp.com

Adam  on March 18, 2014 at 9:03 AM

Thanks for the direct link Jay, purchased the vinyl, great deal! Peace.

Trackbacks

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