Our Breakdown series returns with an analysis of Leon Vynehall’s ballroom-inspired 2014 cut, ‘It’s Just’.

Leon Vynehall’s eight-track Music For The Uninvited EP has been overwhelmingly well-received critically since its release back in 2014 on Martyn’s 3024 label, a reaction that seems to have taken the producer somewhat by surprise. An eclectic blend of house, techno, disco, funk, hip-hop and soul, the overall sound of the EP is strongly influenced by the music that Vynehall was exposed to growing up, a memory based largely on all the cassette tapes that his mother used to play in the car on the daily school run. Harking back to the likes of Funky Jams, Mr Scruff and DJ Shadow, Vynehall felt compelled to make a release that flowed from one track to another, kind of like the mixtapes in the car on the way to school. That said, ‘It’s Just (House of Dupree)’ seems to have emerged as one of the standout tracks, having had plenty of dancefloor exposure.

In keeping with the old-school cassette mixtape vibe that inspired the EP, the overall sound palette is quite lo-fi. There’s lashings of tape delay on the main elements, along with a heavy reliance on filtered samples, tape hiss and vinyl crackle for added atmosphere. As far as ‘It’s Just’ is concerned, the main tonal components are a sampled synth arpeggio and vocal hook, bassline and plenty of strings (some sampled, some credited to Eagles For Hands, aka Laurie Ross, who plays cello on the track).

Intro & Ball Culture Influences

The filtered orchestral break heard over the intro is from the much-plundered Salsoul Orchestra’s ‘Ohh I Love It (Love Break)’:

Interestingly enough, in this case it’s been sampled part-and-parcel with the voiceover that accompanies it, the whole thing having been lifted from the soundtrack of a 1989 documentary about ball culture called Voguing: The Message:

The voiceover is by Willi Ninja, one of the more prominent dancers from the scene, who also featured in the cult classic Paris Is Burning documentary:

In an interview with RBMA, Vynehall explained that the EP’s title itself was “a nod to disco, as well as voguing and the origin of house music. I love the scene, and the whole idea of it.” (Coincidentally, ball culture and voguing also inspired Madonna’s 1990 hit single ‘Vogue’, which samples the same Salsoul Orchestra track used on ‘It’s Just’.)

Main Instrumental Sample

The main sample takes the form of a three-note synth arpeggio playing a spread major triad (also known as a broken chord). On the recording it was sampled from, this is originally an A major chord. The sample is taken from the Isley Brothers’ 1980 ballad ‘Don’t Say Goodnight (It’s Time for Love)’, also notably sampled by J Dilla for ‘So Far To Go’, featuring Common and D’Angelo.

What’s interesting about Vynehall’s use of the sample is the way delay effects are applied. The original Isley Brothers record also featured a delay effect on this part, which has been trimmed off here and replaced by a delay synced to the tempo of the new track. How can we tell this? Because the part is played by a sample across three different notes (F#, Ab and Bb). You can hear the rates at which the notes occur is slightly slower at the lower pitch compared to the higher version – yet the delay effect remains in sync with the song, making this less of an issue.

Author Dave Clews
26th August, 2015

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