Audio Mixer: Blue May.
Following the word-of-mouth success of Leon Vynehall's joyous 2014 debut LP, Music for the Uninvited, the British house producer returned with an equally triumphant sophomore full-length in 2016. Rojus is Lithuanian for heaven or paradise, and everything on this album points to a relaxed, lovely time, without any hint of melancholy or anger. The record equally lives up to its subtitle, Designed to Dance -- apart from the upward-spiraling intro "Beyond This," the album is entirely aimed at the dancefloor, doing away with the downtempo interludes of Uninvited. Otherwise, the album essentially isn't too much of a departure from Vynehall's debut, but it feels a bit more lush and forest-like, with bird calls sweetly chirping throughout the album. Vynehall's beats feel comfortable and unhurried, but they're detailed and sturdy, propelling tracks that are similarly laid-back and casual yet carefully assembled. He's a pro at picking the right dusty piano samples, the perfect vocal snippets, the best string or horn sounds. "Saxony" places sublime harp pluckings inside its 3-D tapestry of shuffling beats and cooing vocals, and a sample of jazz harpist Dorothy Ashby's voice pops up from time to time. "Beau Sovereign" centers around the catchy vocal chant "Your love, that's what I want, your love, is all I need" along with a grand orchestral melody. "Wahness" plays around with drum pitches, reversed sounds, and a nimble bassline, as well as an echo-covered voice exclaiming "Energy." The soaring vocals and lavish melodies make "Blush" seem like the album's ecstatic peak, but then Vynehall outdoes himself with "Kiburu's," a euphoric rush similar to Uninvited highlight "Goodthing" or non-album 2014 single "Butterflies." The track's conga drums seem to play call and response with bird calls, rippling pianos, and a flickering disco guitar note reminiscent of the one from Stardust's "Music Sounds Better with You." For the second time, Leon Vynehall has crafted an exquisite album of cheerful, jubilant tracks to get blissfully lost in. ~ Paul Simpson