Review: LVDS – Golden Days (Album) by Chris Swinglis
I’ve heard it said several times now that electro swing has reached the point where it no longer stands as a genre of its own. There’s so much variety within the style, and so many subgenres that one could gladly categorise themselves as a fan of swing ’n’ bass – for example – whilst loathing swing house – or vice versa. To say one is a fan of electro swing is to simply say that one appreciates any particular style that has had this flavour added to it. And one of the most prominent of these particular styles, is swing hop. Pioneered by the likes of Chinese Man, and Smokey Joe & The Kid, swing hop is of course hip hop with the addition of swing. And one of the newest artists to be attempting to make a name for himself in this select genre is LVDS – a producer from the Netherlands, due to release his debut album this week: Golden Days.
A steady hip hop beat underscores a Dixieland melody in the album’s introduction, before we set off with the title track, ‘Golden Days’, featuring singer Sonia Elisheva. Now despite being from Portugal, Elisheva sings in a rather London-esque accent, suggesting a degree of hip hop legitimacy. There’s a nice minimalistic beat that provides a catchy backing; it’s a little repetitive, but LVDS closes the song just before the beat is about to get stale – demonstrating a good sense of musical timing. Then, a ragtime piano introduces ‘Mr Sherlock’, in which singer Iolanda Boban’s silky voice places us into a 1920s speakeasy. The instrumental lines are very smooth and accompany the voice effortlessly, and there is some nice lyrical wordplay here as well. After this we have ‘Blue Skies’, in which the optimism of the song’s title is reflected in the music: this is an incredibly upbeat number, which will easily put a smile on one’s face. It’s reminiscent of some of Boogie Belgique’s earlier stuff – and any comparison to Boogie Belgique can only be a compliment. There’s a lovely bounce, and an excellent choice of samples. Overall, I really enjoy it, although there’s a very strange, chiptune sample featured halfway through that really interrupts the vibe. Other than that, the song is lovely.
LVDS then invites Szigeti Juli for a cover of Chaka Khan’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’. I’ve been hearing a lot about this band lately, although I must confess that this is one of the first times I’ve actually had a proper listen. The song features a very steady, standard electro swing, stride piano beat; it’s not overly innovative, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. And notably, the vocal editing in particular is flawless. ‘Be With U’ begins with a kind of Caravan Palace vibe initially, perhaps from the way the guitar is being played, before quickly developing into a swing ’n’ bass offering. There are several clichés of this particular stylistic niche thrown in; again, it’s not particularly innovative, but there’s still enough to entertain. Next up, a forlorn trumpet sets the tone for ‘Long Gone’ which is classic, swingy trip hop, with more than a touch of the blues. It’s really very good actually; the production is spotless, and the song really stands as a whole piece of music. A great piece, the best so far, making me think that maybe this is the best direction for LVDS, with these more downbeat numbers.
Another instrumental then features with ‘Café Noir’. LVDS brings back that ragtime piano to begin, and again we have the trip hop beat – more upbeat than the previous, but still standing out. Aside from a slightly strange eight bars in the middle that don’t really flow, it seems to be in these instrumentals that LVDS really excels. Iolanda Boban’s identifiable voice features again in ‘Steps on the Moon’, very reminiscent of Kathrin deBoer of Belleruche. The song features a strong swing hop beat, although at this point I note that the album has yet to feature any rapping. It would certainly work excellently over this particular track, with the potential for real improvement. Still, it’s a good song. ‘1925’’s title suggests an immediate year, and it definitely seems that all of these songs are very much leaning towards the influence of early jazz, as opposed to specifically the swing era. And this is good – it works for LVDS, and he’s managing to utilise this style as his trademark sound. ‘1925’ features some unusual sounds scattered throughout too – a commendable choice of timbres. And then – if there’s one thing we can expect from a 2020 electro swing release – it’s the inclusion of Alanna Lyes. ‘One Taste’ is pretty poppy, but also with an almost Western feel to it. You’d think these influences might not flow together too well, but the fusion is fantastic. This is another standout track, and along with ‘Long Gone’, LVDS is really showing his versatility in many ways. And finally – here on track 11 – we have some rap, courtesy of Fatherlyshrimp, who is completely competent.
The next song, ‘Am I Real’ also features Alanna Lyes, and is a much more standard electro swing number, with the return of the stride piano. Again, it’s very poppy, which is what Lyes brings best. It’s really really catchy, though it’s kitschy as hell; I noted this for a few tracks on my Bart&Baker review – it might be a bit too much for some. Though personally, I think it’s excellent, and held back just enough; the build up to the chorus in particular is a moment of musical genius. ‘Am I Real’ is the last “official” song of the release, although we then have two instrumentals of songs we’ve already heard: ‘Steps on the Moon’, and ‘Golden Days’. These don’t provide anything extra at all, but both do manage to prove their worth as solid backing tracks that a rapper could easily rhyme over. And finally, we have the bonus track: ‘This is Swing Hop’. Featuring many of the guest artists already heard on this release, as well as rapper Brice Robell, these collective tracks are always fun, and LVDS manages to showcase each of his featured artist’s strengths, using samples from several of the songs, as well as original material. It’s a great idea, and works as an effective minimix. And of course, it also showcases his own talents – as a producer, compiler, and collaborator.
Overall, LVDS has some potential to make a real name for himself. His production skills are excellent, and there are several occasions that demonstrate real versatility. Where he sometimes stumbles, are several minor moments here and there in which one very small section blemishes the rest of the piece. Indeed, there is work to be done in terms of compositional and songwriting techniques; but as a young producer coming onto the scene, this debut album is a noteworthy achievement. With a whole host of prominent collaborators, and impeccable production abilities, LVDS is certainly one to watch. Swing hop is a very exciting genre right now, and producers such as him are only going to further reinforce this to be the case.
Stream & Download “LVDS – Golden Days” HERE!
Written by Chris Swinglis Date: 2020-12-18