Levek - Look A Little Closer
Of all the revivalist sounds which have surfaced in indie music over the past ten years, I must admit, 1970s inspired lounge music was way, way, way down the list of styles I have been eagerly awaiting a comeback for. An art form which has been specifically composed for the purpose of providing musical wallpaper to soundtrack a wanky meal, for wankers talking wank about wanky topics. In other words, lounge music is a bit...well...wank, isn't it? No wonder they pump it through shitty speaker systems in high-rise elevators, it's all a big joke isn't it? How do you make bone-crushingly awkward silence in a lift with people you're forced to get along with everyday even more excruciating? Easy listening jazz rhythms, Spanish guitars and cheesy organ solos. If the cable snapped, I would probably enjoy the terrified screams of my colleagues as we plummeted to our sticky end more than another pseudo-flamenco trumpet piece.
For that reason, you have to admire the massive bollocks on Levek. Third track on his new album Look A Little Closer and the cold sweats began. 'Terra Treasures' is, what can only be described as, a hark back to the good old days of instrumental boss-nova lounge music. After just a few seconds of those jazzy acoustic guitar strokes and I almost launched my iPod over the nearest bridge shouting "away with you vile, evil sonic displeasure!," but that would have been a bit melodramatic. Despite wanting to delete track three from my memory indefinitely, there are moments on Look A Little Closer which I love.
Opener 'Black Mould Grow' is simply wonderful. Filled with glorious vocal harmonies, soft-rock tendencies and that all important 70s sun soaked meandering bass line, the song serves as an essential introduction to Levek, acting as a manifesto for all that is great with this artist; ambitious song-writing, wonderful, warm production and it transports you to another time and place (namely sunny urban Florida about 30 years ago). It feels somewhat strange listening to the song walking down a rainy Oxford high street surrounded by toffs and tourists. I should surely be on the strip rollerblading into the sunset... with an afro.
Tracks such as 'Canterbury Bell' and 'With A Slow Burn' pick up where Devendra Banheart left off on his album Rejoicing In The Hands (basically, before he became annoying and started writing songs about little boys' bums), 70s hippy folk with plenty of scope for pastoral orchestral arrangements, with the latter track proving an especially rewarding listen. 'Girl In The Fog' could be included along with some of Simon and Garfunkel's most tender and moving acoustic ballads. However, Levek isn't content with just creating 3 minute folk-pop songs that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
The other side of this album is more progressive, but not always more rewarding. As previously mentioned, 'Terra Treasures' makes me want to do terrible things those around me, 'Can't Buy Me Love' could soundtrack some really disappointing porno (the all talk, no tits type) and the final two songs - 'Solemn Feeling Forever Healing' and 'French Lessons' - sound too much like that whole 1990s electro-lounge made popular by Air once upon a time. However, 'Muscat Mingle' is the one instrumental track on this album I can get on with. Chiefly because it sounds like the weird jazzier elements of early Calexico, full of ghostly guitars, a bass line that pulses like the blistering sun and, despite Levek's best efforts to ruin the song with pan-pipes, this song remains a desert-jam that is up there with the best of them. Look A Little Closer invites you to do just that. If you can get through the instrumental fug and more loungey tendencies, there are some lovely songs on this record full of ambitious arrangements, flawless production and wonderful vocals.