Tipping Hand

Jesse Somfay - Levamentum [Aqua Regia]


Jesse Somfay has consistently evolved since I first latched on to his productions in 2004 on Traum Schallplatten and Archipel. Pioneering a trance-like sound amongst a wave of minimal techno, Jesse provided a base for a more intelligent and happier take on the hip-output of the time, adding a surprisingly softer element to an otherwise stagnating genre with one of my favorite albums, Between Heartbeats

Jesse then progressed into darker territories with his Borealis alias, forging sounds that were more akin to Burial's future garage and ambient dub productions. His output as Borealis was understated and he was undoubtedly one of the most forward thinking producers at the time. Watching his every move, Borealis turned in dark and hauntingly beautiful albums such as Voidness, and spurred remixes from the likes of Hecq, and Dominik Eulberg (still one of the biggest tracks you'll hear to this day) along with unofficial remixes himself like his rework of Massive Attack's, Teardrop

Needless to say, news of his most recent album recently was warmly received. Released on Tipping Hand, an LA based label previously responsible for a Borealis EP in 2014, the label has ventured into its first vinyl press, affording Jesse's Levamentum, the platform it deserves. 

Going back to his full name as opposed to the Borealis alias, this signaled an obvious change in style, but one that has been hibernating for a good five years. Where Jesse would end up taking this album was anyones guess. Glistening melodic techno? Dark and dubby ambient? How would his notorious love of Trance music come into play?

Levamentum sits somewhere left-centre of all the above. A damn fine positioning considering the many places Jesse could have taken it. Jesse has evidently been having fun with a multitude of sounds; pads, synths and soaring keys, with each playing pivotal roles against a chamber of colorful, bouncing melodies. The light-hearted examples found in his early Archipel releases are still there, often with an undercurrent of slighter darker tones, whilst the progressive trance-like repetition is stripped out to make way for a more playful, pop feel.

Retro-wave in approach, experimental in execution; this is a defining piece in Jesse's evolving armory. You can hear elements of his previous productions throughout, with soaring synths in Supernatural Flirt, and emotional Borealis-style pull in album opener Scorpia White. Eno/Budd-style ambient textures in Vermeer and Lily give the album a warm, retro feel, whilst IDM style-beats in Atalanta keep you off track. Not content with this combination, the album still has the ability to leave you open-gasped at progressive-sounding tracks like Andromeida, as Jesse combines innovative beat-work with his love for the synthesizer. 

Levamentum is a dedication to the many capabilities, combinations and left-of-centre concoctions only someone as vivid in color as Jesse Somfay could manufacture.  Like the dancing ballerina you see on the artwork, this album was never going to be as obvious as what you see and hear on first sight; the thoughts going through the performers head, the work that went into it and tjhe flickering, vignetted picture you watch through the retro kaleidoscope is only half the story at play, and it gives a little more with every listen.

Available in digital and double vinyl on Bandcamp.