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Georg Levin – Can’t Hold Back

The lone agent premise, where one strives for what is revolutionary in self-induced isolation before going public, has worn itself out in recent years, especially in the music scene. It doesn’t quite match the profile of the Berlin musician, singer, and producer Georg Levin, even if one were to assume something similar given the rather rare qualities of his debut album “Can’t Hold Back.” Levin need not decorate himself with exaggerations considering his low profile. His music is just too damn unusual for something like that. Whoever doesn’t want to believe it should invest some time to find some of the secrets of “Can’t Hold Back.” You’ll most likely find a touching yet idiosyncratic redefinition of Soul. He doesn’t start from the standpoint of the observer but rather as someone who has spent a large part of his life making this type of music immediate, thus diving into it in order to change it based on a personal vision.

Stylistically these 13 songs are naturally much more wide reaching than the very tight realm Soul connotes. Jazz, electronica and funk play a carrying role throughout the album even when they never win the upper hand. Georg Levin, who started at the tender age of 10 writing songs, has purposefully given himself very much time for his first album. He is not content with half-finished ideas. This you notice at every second on “Can’t Hold Back.” Here, nothing is left up to coincidence without excluding spontaneous ideas. Levin has been on a long road to opt for the music career and is no one who overestimates his own ability. He studied communications in London living there for several years. He finally decided to go with the music after an unsatisfying stint in the movie and television biz. Nine months he tinkered around at home with only a 4-track recorder for his demo tape. The result: the first single “When I’m With You” (SR5005). The contact to Jazzanova, especially Alexander Barck, had already been established. Then came the next two releases “(I got) Somebody New” (SR5009) and “In your Car” (SK007EP) that really sparked interest in the US, the UK and Japan. By now, even the American house specialists Masters At Work have noticed what’s up and would like to release “(I got) Somebody New” on their own label.

The album came together with the support of several befriended musicians and producers including Axel Reinemer (Extended Spirit/Jazzanova) and Robert Philipp (Mellowbag). Some of the pieces were recorded live in the studio with a portion having been completely programmed. The difference is barely noticeable while listening. If you wouldn’t know better, then one could not believe that “Can’t Hold Back” is his first album. The compositions (Levin values calling them songs and not tracks) sound so damn perfect and organic. Not anybody in a long time has reshaped Soul and its affiliated styles at such a high level. Half-hearted things are definitely not for him. The work for his first album was accordingly extensive. His personal favorites Prince, Marvin Gaye, and Earth Wind & Fire you can hear emanating clearly. Instead of merely copying them, Georg Levin goes one step further on “Can’t Hold Back.” He utilizes these sounds and beats as the starting basis in order to create something new out of them.

Sometimes, for a quick second, it sounds as if the subtly electronic boogie-sound of the 70s has been resurrected. Georg Levin is an artist even with all the reminiscences. He is not trying to revamp the past. His songs are much too independent for that. The record does not let itself be pressed into one of the commonly used patterns. That might make it fitting that he mentions Frank Zappa and Udo Lindenberg as influences. Two names that one rarely hears as sources of inspiration. The special thing is that he doesn’t just write and arrange the pieces himself but that he also sings. This is done with a voice that definitely lives up to well-known Soul greats. Of all the current artists he likes D’Angelo the most. It’s not a stretch to say their souls are related even when Levin’s music takes a different route. Georg Levin has successfully found his own musical language on “Can’t Hold Back” even with the closeness to the Jazzanova circuit. The commonalities with the English broken beat school are marginal. Next to his live band with which he will soon be performing live, he is currently involved with a project with Dixon called Wahoo that takes on house music. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

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