Lars Leonhard + Alvina Red: Seasons - Les quatre saisons

Düsseldorf electronic ambient-house producer Lars Leonhard and singer Alvina Red bring an inspired twist to the dub-techno genre by orienting their recording's presentation around the four seasons, much as Antonio Vivaldi did for The Four Seasons nearly 300 years ago. Organized into four sections of three tracks, Seasons - Les quatre saisons is structured in an interesting way, too: Red, who at the age of ten sang background on Agnetha Fältskog's “Take Good Care of Your Children” (the B-side to the Abba chanteuse's“The Heat Is On” single), introduces each section by adding a French voiceover (as well as angelic choral backgrounds) to Leonhard's warm ambient-dub-techno backings. Having set the scene, the Stockholm-based singer then steps aside for the second and third tracks in each section to allow Leonhard to evoke the season using purely instrumental means. The seventy-seven-minute set begins, naturally enough, with the flowering of new life in spring (“Le printemps”) and then, just as naturally, works its way through summer (“L'éte”), fall (“L'automne”), and winter (“L'hiver”).

It hardly surprises that a positive spirit infuses the spring and summer sections, with Leonhard draping the tracks' insistent rhythms with sparkle and warmth. During these sections, glistening keyboard patterns and metallic chordal stabs bolster the music's crystalline aura, while at the same time, the dub-techno pulsations lend it a muscular undercurrent. The quintessence of the style is reached in “Dancing in the Noonday Sun,” which would go down as smoothly in a club's after-hours lounge as it does in the recorded context, and “Summer Storms,” which opts for a darker and heavier side of the dub-techno style that invites comparison to a prototypical Chain Reaction release. Melancholy begins to seep into the material with the arrival of “L'automne,” and a feeling of serenity and calm likewise begins to characterize the recording as it weathers the brittle cool of “Frozen Landscape” and “Blizzard.” Field recordings also find their way into the recording in expected ways, such as when “Spring Day” finds children welcoming winter's retreat with exuberant expressions of joy and when “Summer Storms” and “Soaking Wet” are drenched in rain and thunder.

Though the recording is overlong, Leonhard and Red are commended for presenting the dub-techno genre in a novel way. If the music itself doesn't carve out new stylistic ground, certainly the idea of wedding the style to Vivaldi's concept is an imaginative one. And if ever a recording called out for a vinyl treatment, it's this one as each season's three tracks would fit comfortably onto one side of a double-vinyl package.

May 2013