Levinsky is an electronic music producer from Helsinki, Finland. His full-length debut “Electra Complex” was released mid-2019. On October 2nd, 2020 he unveiled his latest opus entitled “Nocturnes” to the world.

The cover artwork was produced by artist Ninni Kairisalo of Kali Graphics. I quite like what they’ve done for Levinsky here, especially with the midnight wine color scheme. They also did the artwork for “Electra Complex.” I’m not entirely sure what’s going on here, but it kind of looks like a “girls only” orgy configured in the shape of a flowery inverted pentagram. Since the music presented very much embodies a dark psycho-sensual vibe I think that it fits in well with what Levinsky has done here.

Levinsky’s style on “Nocturnes” is self-described as cinematic post-synthwave/darkwave, which feels accurate to me. There are some very retro/modular vibes going on throughout this album that carry that familiar synthwave quality with it, “No Control (Love Theme)” and “Symptom of the Night,” are good examples of this. Generally though, I felt that this album leans very heavily into a romantic gothic influence, which is my fucking wheelhouse. I’ve been aware of Levinsky for quite some time, but I haven’t given his music a listen until now, I regret not jumping in sooner!

If I had to reference “Nocturnes” to what I already know, it sort of reminds me of a mixture of Confrontational meets Collide (especially their more recent albums), meets early 1990s Enigma. When I close my eyes to visualize what I feel when I listen to this album I don’t so much see solid images as I felt a massive aura of appreciation for a darkly erotic feminine force. “Nocturnes” is slow, carnal, and a ecstatic. And while I can try to compare it to other stuff I’ve heard out there, “Nocturnes” is distinctively its own thing without sounding too vampyric, too retro, or too ritualistic.

Five tracks on this LP are completely instrumental and serve as bookends to three gorgeous tracks featuring guest vocals by Enlia (France), Witch of the Vale (Scotland), and Bara Hari (United States). Much like a triptych, “Nocturnes” is configured into a cohesive narrative that isn’t you can appreciate fully until you listen to it a few times. “La Notte Oscura” and “No Control (Love Theme)” serve as the strongest instrumental “openers” leading into the vocal tracks here. Of the three songs with vocals “‘Un Coeur Dérangé” is the most explosive track on the album as a beautiful example of how to properly arrange and produce vocals. The French lyrics here perfectly fit the Marquis De Sade aesthetic of “Nocturnes.” Enlia’s voice reminds me a lot of Anette Olzon of Nightwish fame. It’s silky, well-recorded, and gentle. “The Strangest Flower (feat. Witch of the Vale)” offers up another well-produced vocal track which is the most retro of the three vocal tracks available here. This is primarily because of Levinsky’s choice to use a warm pulsing bass for the song’s low end. Don’t let that confuse you into think this is proper synthwave, however. Because it isn’t, and it’s better for it. There’s plenty of pianos and strings here that add an almost symphonic vibe in the song’s “bridge.” The subtle guitars on this song are a nice little surprise too and only add to Witch’s vocals during the chorus. There’s subtle pitch correction going on in this song that positively augments Witch’s voice to fit easier within the context of what Levinsky is accomplishing. Finally, Bara Hari makes an appearance to carve up some flesh on “Capitale De La Douleur.” Her performance is very Western in an Amy Lee sort of way. To me, it feels like a continuation of what she did on her debut “Pandora’s Box.” I quite like it.

Overall, “Nocturnes” is bad fucking ass. I will always appreciate music that accurately connects well-executed visual aesthetic with well-executed audio production. In my view you can’t have one without the other.

FOR FANS OF: Confrontational, Collide, Enigma, and people who just like darkly erotic vibes.

STAND-OUT TRACKS: “No Control (Love Theme),” “Un Coeur Dérangé,” “The Strangest Flower,” “Capitale De La Douleur”

Album Color Profile: #884EA0

You can find all things Levinsky at https://levinsky.bandcamp.com/

Bara Hari (aka Samantha Franco) is an electronic producer/vocalist from Los Angeles, California. She’s a rather new addition to the electronic music scene, but don’t hold that against her because Franco’s talent is undeniable. Her first EP is entitled “Pandora’s Box” and it came out on June 19th, 2020.

The cover artwork is quite nice. The color choices here are also solid and subtle. I particularly like the faux shrink wrap along the edges of the image, it gives this a real tangible feel despite the fact that there isn’t a physical release of “Pandora’s Box”—yet. Trey Wellerman and Sam Franco’s design here is great because it tells everything there is about the release by including Bara’s logo, a couple of images, the tracklisting, and of course, a stunning photograph of Samantha.

I’m not entirely sure to what extent Samantha Franco played in the production process of this EP. It’s clear that she performs the vocals for “Pandora’s Box.” What’s confusing is that there’s also a producer credit for someone named Ian Flux. This leads me to believe that this EP was largely a collaborative effort. Which for how polished it is would make sense. If I had to guess, I think that Franco first wrote the music for “Pandora’s Box” via DAW, and then outsourced the mixing process to Flux and mastering to Lee McCartney. Regardless of how this all got done, this is a great little EP. It’s top-tier and succinct. To me, this is the embodiment of Darkpop near-perfection. That said, without Franco’s vocal performance it wouldn’t be what it is. Don’t get me wrong, the music is fantastic on it’s own, but it’s significantly strengthened by the presence of her magnetic voice.

The lyrical themes on “Pandora’s Box” delve into the subject matter common to Gothic types of music. Franco frequently takes dark images and uses them to create a space where she can express sometimes romantic interpersonal angst via song. At times, her lyricisms remind me of a poppy Miranda Sex Garden just with much more cutting. See this excerpt from Bara Hari’s “Dark Water”:

“I dragged you down with me/So deep we could no longer see/Ourselves in our reflections/At the bottom of the sea Murky as the water/Pooling at our feet/The tide has come/The current cuts/And it pulled you away from me.”

The theme of cutting, or rather separation seems to be the primary theme of “Pandora’s Box.” Separation from the people that we thought we loved, separation from the past, and separation from the things that hold us back. On the surface, it may seem that Franco’s lyrics only focus on relationship problems, but really they are more about liberation. Which, to me, shows that there’s definitely something more going on up underneath the surface of this EP than meets the eye.

“Carving Flesh” was one of my favorite tracks from “Pandora’s Box.” The opening reminded me of something you might hear on an early Lady Gaga album, but it quickly turned into something much darker. Franco’s vocals are remarkable on this track not just because they are clear, but because they change the context of the music by becoming an instrument in their own right. The best song on the EP goes to “White Noise.” I feel like the lyrical content of this track is very relevant in the post-Covid world. The track discusses what it means to be separated from other people, whilst also being trapped within the prison of the mind. When she mentions “Pandora’s Box” in this song I get the picture that it serves as an allegory for the chaotic space of Internet:

“Listen to the white noise/Coming from Pandora’s box/Taken by the embrace of the past/Transient attraction/Of everything that used to be/Has lost its charm but won’t let go of me.”

Overall, this is an explosive debut for Bara Hari. Had this been a full-length LP, it would be right up there with Collide’s “Chasing the Ghost.” It’s that good. I honestly can’t wait to see where she takes this project—because it is just dripping with potential.

And real talk, if there’s anyone out there in the void from Paradox Interactive, you need to get Bara Hari’s music into “Vampire: The Masquerade—Bloodlines 2.” This is the type of music made for that kind of atmosphere.

RECOMMENDED FOR: People who like to cry dance.

Stand-Out Tracks: I absolutely loved every song on “Pandora’s Box,” but if I had to choose, please check out “Carving Flesh,” “White Noise,” and “Dark Water” first.

Album Color Profile: #F8BBD0

You can find all things BARA HARI at https://barahari.bandcamp.com