Nov 2012 23

Level 2.0 - ElevateLevel 2.0
Category: Electro / EBM
Album: Elevate
Stars: 2.5
Blurb: An album reliant on club oriented hooks that seem sourced in the previous decade and engineered to invigorate the present.


One might wonder what agenda the duo of New Yorkers that form Level 2.0 fulfilled with their latest EP, Elevate. It’s a release rich in sounds echoing the crowning achievements of crowd pleasing club electronica from some 20 years ago, resurrected by way of current electro formulas. On Elevate, the most surprising is the balance that the record finds between the two aesthetics, balance that for a good reason on albums of their industrial peers often shifts away from the method that Level 2.0 exercises time and again. With an abundance of passé tropes permuting this release, there are as many reasons for listeners to enjoy it as there are to totally dismiss it for its reliance on borderline mawkish instrumentations.

The wave of pulsating electro that engulfs the listener as “Elevate” begins immediately establishes the identity of Level 2.0 – a band that seems to strive for the same intense sensitivity as the likes of VNV Nation or Assemblage23, merging properties of structured pop songs and danceable melodies into an occasionally thoughtful club friendly offering. Melodic vocal work paired with mellow, swaying electronic arrangements punctuated by beeps and rich in romantic lyrical value make Level 2.0 an instantly appealing proposition for fans of eventful and emotive electro. With its well pronounced and corny vocal, the track works as a cross between the club standards of this and the last decade and is a throwback both enjoyable and shamelessly cheesy. This quality becomes even more pronounced with versions by Pulse State, nEs, and 216 that all exploit the same inherent motifs of “Elevate” and mimic the track’s techno foundations to satisfying but largely indistinguishable results. All of the mixes, give or take minor manipulations of synthesizers within their content, stroke the same emotional note and fail to broaden the musical horizon of “Elevate” the way remixes are often allowed to. So minor are the differences between each remix that Sonik Foundry’s take on the original material, which adds a repeating raving crescendo compensating for a slow and ascetic buildup, is easily the best effort on the EP if only because of its attempt to push the formula in a slightly different direction.

None of the other elements of Level 2.0’s repertoire stray far from the set up of “Elevate,” perpetuated by its mixes. “When the Stars Align” blatantly channels euro/dance sensibilities that although you might wish extinct, here return in full force, made proud by the catchy hook and dramatic delivery of cringe-worthy lines. Unfortunately, the vocal capacity of Mike Hoffman is challenged and tested so severely that the track is crippled repeatedly by some unreachable high notes. If anything, this might potentially amplify your enjoyment of the track as a pastiche of conventions that dominated dance music throughout the ‘90s. “Whirlwind” and “Persevere” both take several cues from the current crop of EBM releases and their dynamic, repetitious beat and distorted voices offset the continuing infatuation of Level 2.0 with outdated club music tropes. The remixes of both songs align their stylizations accordingly and on their take on “Persevere,” Negative Format delivers a signature, instantly memorable melodic structure that successfully raises the song beyond its initial value.

Effectively, it appears that Level 2.0, even when safely playing to its strength, is unable to fully realize the potential of outdated schmaltzy emotionalism that influences their work. And while there is nothing wrong with sourcing sounds of the previous decade to incorporate them into a contemporary electro album, more often than not, Elevate comes across as uncertain of its intentions. Whether you laugh at it or laugh with it, it makes a world of difference, but rest assured, you will be pardoned for either.
Track list:

  1. Elevate
  2. When the Stars Align
  3. Elevate (Sonik Foundry Remix)
  4. Whirlwind
  5. Whirlwind (Cellmod Remix)
  6. Elevate (Altimeter Mix by Pulse State)
  7. Persevere
  8. Persevere (Negative Format Remix)
  9. Elevate (Nes Remix)
  10. Elevate (216 Remix)

Level 2.0 Website
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Nilaihah Records Website
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Nilaihah Records Twitter
Purchase at:
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Damian Glowinkowski (DamienG)

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