Vincenzo – Wherever I Lay My Head

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With a musical history that stretches back to the ‘90s house scene in Hamburg, and a haul of productions and two artists albums already under his belt, when Italo/German mainstay Vincenzo says he’s focusing on crafting an album that eschews the dancefloor in favour of a home-listening experience steeped in emotion and honesty, it’s not presumptuous to think he’s got the know-how to pull it off. After all, his trademark sound fuses deep house with the warmer side of techno, and if you combine this with his craftsmen’s knowledge of telling a story in his sets, he’s in good stead to slow things down a little and tell the “almost spiritual journey” he’s aiming for on Wherever I Lay My Head.

While such statements are a little overblown for what’s on offer here, it’s also not too far from the textured and personal journey Vincenzo has managed to pull together – if you’re prepared to give it the warranted attention. The musicality of his club productions has translated to a slower tempo with little difficulty, which is the immediate impression you get from the opener Hello, as we’re welcomed in by the soft cooing of Lisa Shaw. She’s a vocalist more often associated with the soulful house of the likes of Miguel Migs, but she’s perfect fodder for building a gentle mood here.

Tasmania sees the 4/4 beats return, albeit at a much slower pace, and even then the song’s drive softly bottoms into a sparkling string breakdown halfway in. There’s a striking sadness to it, and the sharp synth stabs that intermittently punctuate the landscape are almost achingly beautiful; you get the sense we’re in for some heavy-duty emotion. Indeed, Wherever I Lay My Head is an emotive listen from start to finish that uses melody to gently coax you in, while for the most part smoothing off any of the rougher edges we‘d associate with techno.

Those grand soundscapes are out in even more force in The Clearing, channeling the sort of melodic, progressive builds heard on the classic Northern Exposure albums (among the seminal ‘home listening’ experiences). Again though, Vincenzo largely chooses the soulful and organic over the synthetic. Where You Are brings such a building, simmering sense of joy that bubbles into what’s nearly open-armed euphoria, but it’s defined more by its jazzy arrangements, fleshed out with delicately arranged instrumentals that show Vincenzo possesses far more musicality than your average beat merchant.

And so it continues as Vincenzo plays out what’s obviously his own “spiritual journey” on the rest of Wherever I Lay My Head. Shelving any stark techno rhythms in favour of melody and warmth, we’re softly coaxed in by a serene and inviting vibe, while mercifully avoiding the pedestrian, the wishy-washy and the emotionally contrived; it’s gorgeous in a completely unaffected way (which is no mean feat).

The only trade off is that in going for the subdued, Vincenzo is passing on the chance to really grip and enthrall you, so its charms might be lost on those giving it a passing listen. For anyone who offers it the proper attention though – once the ethereal voices that haunt the closer Sometimes Saturday withdraw like a peaceful dream and drift off into the distance, chances are they’ll love it enough to listen all over again.

Wherever I Lay my Head is out now on Dessous/Balance Music. Distributed through EMI.