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When it comes to house music there’s been something of a renaissance in New York City these past few years, and one of its main advocates is Levon Vincent. As a club- goer, he cut his teeth during the pre-Giuliani New York heyday, where a vibrant scene was helping to push the elegant sound that would become known as NY house forward – and Levon witnessed it all first-hand. Working his way up through landmarks like Sugar Reef (of Sugar Babies fame) or Pat Field’s Boutique, and record stores such as Kim’s, Tower, and Music Exchange, Levon joined a long, proud lineage of fringe arts based around New York’s downtown culture. Ten years later, in 2001, he began to work at the legendary Halcyon record shop in Brooklyn. Halcyon, which doubled as a café, was more than just a record store – it was a place where music aficionados could sit and exchange ideas while listening to the music they love. With a meaty sound-system and their friendly and open policy, the shop soon became a hub for NY’s most passionate dance enthusiasts. It was here that Levon met his future Deconstruct label partner Anthony Parasole, as well as DJ Jus-Ed; who subsequently went on to start the Underground Quality label – the label that has done so much to introduce their homegrown sounds to a global audience. Even artists from further a-field like Nina Kraviz or Anton Zap have UQ to thank for first promoting them.
By 2008, Levon began his own label, Novel Sound. He started with a bang: a certified hit in the form of the label’s first release, ‘These Games’ EP. It’s a 4-track EP and the release featured a song by Jus-Ed as well. Levon repaid the swap on Ed’s own label, with one of 2009’s biggest tracks, ‘Games Dub’. With his industrial clanging beats, Levon’s dubbed-out sound quickly found him supporters from scene veterans like Craig Richards and Berghain’s Marcel Dettmann. Soon after, Levon was invited to play at Fabric, Rex, Berghain, and of course the infamous Underground Quality party series at the now defunct Tape Club. As a producer, his immense focus and concentration come to a head in tracks that have attained anthemic status – the Ostgut Ton release ‘Late Night Jam’, with its driving chord-stabs, sits as comfortably in a percussive UK bass set as it does in any pumping techno set – as demonstrated by Pearson Sound on last year’s massive FABRICLIVE 56.
“In the 80s, I had some VCRs, a record player and a dual cassette deck. I had a group of friends at that time and we were really interested in DJing and making beats, we would combine various songs and recordings to make new songs and then combine those to make new mixes; stuff like, recording a spoken word track playing over Mr. Fingers or add movie dialogue to another record. We loved the dirty version of I’ll House You, ‘I’ll Hump You’. I remember us all agreeing on that record. Soul II Soul had a big impact, too. I regularly slip-up and refer to podcasts as “mix tapes”, maybe because it’s nostalgic or something. It still sounds right to me. Mix tapes are one of the very coolest things to come from Generation-X. After hearing or maybe reading about how Nitzer Ebb were doing their music I remember asking my mom to bring me to the Sam Ash store on 48th to get a sampler, not knowing the price of the things! Upwards of $10k! A few years later I did eventually get a used Ensoniq EPS-1, which was a more affordable semi-pro sampler. I think it was a popular piece of equipment, it was certainly a step up from my Casio SK-1… Many producers probably remember using the EPS-1 fondly.”