Review: Lone – Levitate

Lone’s Reality Testing deservedly dominated every music publication’s end-of- the-year list for best albums of 2014, establishing Nottingham native Matt Cutler as one of the most interesting producers around. The album’s hip hop influences combined with lush and inviting grooves emanated warmth and an overall matured sound which got everyone listening and praising the record.

Now Lone is back with a distinctly different yet somehow logically following album Levitate, once again released on cult Belgian label R&S Records. While ‘Reality Testing’ showed reverence to the golden age of hip hop, Levitate is a nod to the uniquely UK sound of 90s jungle and dingy warehouse parties, and was inspired by a period of ill health in New York.

“It was pretty terrifying – I’d try to go to sleep and I’d be hearing these mad rave tunes form in my head,” says Cutler. “When I recovered I was left with all these ideas for fast, feverish tunes.” With only nine tracks adding up to just over 30 minutes, ‘Levitate’ is fast and feverish indeed. The opening ‘Alpha Wheel’ sets the tone only 12 seconds in, bursting out with an energetic jungle flash enhanced by the sound we’ve come to recognize as unmistakably Lone-ish.

The following ‘Backtail Was Heavy,’ and its accompanying Newham, East London-shot video pays respect to “gritty, real, British-looking imagery” as the video’s director Hugo Jenkins puts it. No wonder then that Lone chose to debut the track in a way reminiscent of the late 80s and early 90s days of calling secret numbers from phone booths scattered around the M25 in order to eventually get to the location of the illegal rave happening that night.‘Backtail Was Heavy’ debuted on a special telephone line which took listeners to a mock pirate radio station playing the track.

It would be a mistake to look at Levitate only in the context of the sound of this formative era of UK dance music culture and history because moving on into the album it offers so much more. The eerie ‘The Morning Birds’ serves as an interlude to one of the record’s stand out tracks ‘Vapour Trail’, which shifts the focus from underground raves to what appears to be the more hallucinatory experience of Lone’s illness. The track samples Def Jam’s 1995 classic ‘Bomdigi’ by Erick Sermon and has a hint of ‘Reality Testing’s smoothness.

The rest of the album continues to ride the gripping line between punchy breaks and melodic serenity without sounding dated or repetitive for a second. Its relatively short length maintains a consistent yet continuously fresh pace and feel, and makes perfect sense with the feverish and fast theme that Lone set for himself on this record.

“After making a record as mellow as Reality Testing , it was important to me to not repeat myself,” says Cutler, adding “I wanted it to be an intense blast”. ‘Levitate’ accomplishes this task by being cutting and straight to the point in one moment, then sharply shifting to dreamy and questioning in the next. One more certified end-of- the-year ‘best of’ contender from Lone.

Written by Raya Raycheva