Evian Christ reveals the sublime vision of trance behind his debut album, Revanchist, in this short extract of his cover feature, taken from the latest print issue of Fact.
Evian Christ’s adoration extends across the breadth of trance and its various sub-genres; alongside throwing the fabled Trance Party, one of the best of its kind, and working on his recently released debut album, Revanchist, Evian Christ has spent the best part of the decade since his last proper release building a serious trance archive. Following the viral success of his experimental beat tape debut, Kings and Them, in 2012, the Ellesmere Port-based producer – whose real name is Joshua Leary – was tipped as the next big thing. Catching the ear of Kanye West, he landed a spot on Yeezus a year later, was rushed out on a US tour, and ushered into the studios of some of the biggest artists of the 2010s.
In so many ways, Joshua Leary’s debut album, Revanchist, emerges out of the head of Trance Party, serving as a potent distillation of the sounds that have informed the party since its inception, a consolidation of the contested cultural territory its anagram title playfully alludes to. The album is a product of almost every year the party has taken place, with some of the tracks on the record dating back to 2014, moving Leary to describe it as “a fucking greatest hits of music that no one’s ever heard.” The inclusion of chorister Daniel Blaze’s stunning rendition of Delerium’s ‘Silence’ is testament to this. “I think he was twelve or thirteen when we recorded ‘Silence,’” recalls Leary. Now, Blaze is the organ scholar at Clare College, Cambridge. “He’s six-foot-three and does not sound like he used to,” Leary laughs.
“He’s a profound architect of catharsis,” says Revanchist cover designer and Trance Party collaborator David Rudnick. “That is the device he’s capable of manifesting that I think he’s probably the best in the world at. He has found a way to use trance as a vocabulary to create a catharsis of ruin, the sublime of oblivion.” Leary has always looked for the sublime in trance, grasping the place of awe within euphoria, the inference that within the big, beautiful world that trance promises dwells the diminutive human, looking out to an infinite sea. “You have this classic trance cover art and event posters that are primarily based on a Café del Mar sunset,” Leary explains. “It’s supposed to invoke feelings of being relaxed, but I look at those things and it’s really apocalyptic. It’s bright red, people are on the beach, staring up at this god. Tweaking the music a bit in that direction is what excites me.”
This is how we arrive, drunk with fire, at a track like ‘On Embers,’ which dates back to 2014 yet still hits like an orbital laser. “I’ve been chipping away at it for a long time,” notes Leary. Running a forgotten vocal sample through a granular plug-in that no longer exists, Leary bludgeons gospel house into the Book of Revelation with relentless, million-tonne slabs of noise. Elsewhere, on ‘The Beach,’ Leary takes aim at what he describes as Goa trance’s “shallow engagement with New Age culture,” tilting a sample from an old compilation CD into an arpeggiated tidal wave that shares its DNA with Leary’s monumental remix of Malibu’s ‘One Life.’ “That aspect of trance music, the David-Beckham-in-a-sarong aspect, has been swept under the rug a little bit,” he says with a smile. “I wanted to put it right in your face.” Leary iterates on this trance maximalism on ‘Silence,’ which swells from the purity of Daniel Blaze’s voice, through pining ambience to crescendo in a monolithic wall of noise, like looking up at a tsunami as it towers over you, while Blaze hits the high notes like it’s the last time he’ll ever do it.
However, Revanchist isn’t just oblivion. As Leary’s skills have developed his more extreme tendencies have been tempered by his populist ear, resulting in tracks like ‘Nobody Else,’ on which he softens Clairo’s vocals from her track ‘North’ into a heady Balearic anthem. “It’s like you’re stood at the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean, but you’re watching the person watching, zoomed way out,” Leary says of the panoramic scale of his sound, which often jettisons the endorphin rush of immediacy to privilege expansiveness and space. Even on the album’s euphoric peak, ‘Yxguden,’ featuring Bladee, which interpolates Hixxy’s happy hardcore masterpiece ‘More & More,’ alloying its sugar-rush hook with Drain Gang esotericism, Leary plunges half the track in aquatic reverb, leaving it sounding, in the words of Rudnick, like “Calvin Harris submerged in the sea bed.”
In the years that Leary has worked on Revanchist, trance has never gone away. Even outside of extortionate EDM festivals, the sound has steadily wound its way back into DJs’ repertoires, whether it’s artists on Copenhagen label Kulør tastefully working elements of trance into their hypnotic productions, TDJ riffing on aughts trance excess, or the legions of young London DJs rinsing psytrance across the city’s clandestine party scene.
“I think trance music has stood the test of time because it is unafraid to be emotive; be it melancholic, hopeful, or joyous,” asserts trance royalty Lange, who headlined Trance Party: Anthem. “The scene passionately lives on, maybe one day it’ll burst out to a bigger audience again. It can only make the world a happier place if it does.” On an earlier version of ‘Run Boys Run,’ the final track on Revanchist, as well as its oldest, Leary had Daniel Blaze sing Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’ over its ethereal textures and lovelorn ache. There’s hints of Sasha’s ‘Xpander,’ too, in a panning synth throb that meanders its way through the mix. “The scope of the sublime doesn’t feel like it’s inappropriate at this moment,” says Rudnick of Leary’s hopelessly romantic ambition. “Why not go for the infinite? Strike for the fences because why not? We may never, ever do it again.”
WORDS: Henry Bruce-Jones
PICTURES: Samuel Ibram
This feature was originally published in Fact’s F/W 2023 issue, which is available to buy here.
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