You could say it's unfair to frame Vincent's second album with this sorry incident. The New Yorker's statements were unwise and unhelpful, but not intentionally hateful. But he won't let the issue lie. Vincent's new album, For Paris, was announced in a lengthy Facebook statement: part apology for the things he said, part account of the soul-searching he's done since. Vincent studied the Bible, the Torah and a biography of Martin Luther King. He had an epiphany reading John Lennon's words, "All we are saying is give peace a chance." Timed to commemorate the Paris attacks, the new album tries to "embrace peace, really make it stylish and something cool to be about." Responding to "what I see to be a world in agony," Vincent hopes that he can "ignite a new peace movement."
At first it appears possible to look past the project's odder aspects. From impressionistic opener "Kissing" into "Baseball" and the meditative "Late Reflections," the album's opening run tees us up for something as good as 2015's emotive Levon Vincent. Unfortunately, this careful scene-setting is undermined by "Hope For New Global Peace - In Three Parts," a suite of twee Philip Glass études for synth strings. They'd work well as library music, but jar alongside Vincent's dance tracks, and seem freighted with forced optimism.
Vincent is on form elsewhere on the album. Like another of techno's recent greats, Shed, he mostly revisits past glories these days, but does so with a deft touch. "If We Choose War," a triplet stomper strafed with artillery FX, is solid, and "Only Good Things" is as rich and romantic as anything on his last album. If you can look past the title—is Vincent using his apology album to take a pop at his critics?—"Slander Is Terrible" is a satisfying workout for filter and dub chords.
The producer's peacenik ambitions are never far away, though, and the more naked they become, the more his music loses its depth and subtlety. "The Candlelight" is a janky vocoder ditty with a whiff of "Imagine." "If We Choose Peace," the album's very oddest moment, is sugar-rush synth-pop complete with a manic midpoint tempo change. It pitches for musical euphoria in the way that the album's sleeve illustration tries to be rousing political art. Both swing wildly and miss.