Success and influence are fleeting; musicians are often judged as only as good as their last single, mix or party. One figure to not just survive but thrive on this ephemeral landscape is James Connolly, better known as L-Vis 1990. Connolly has been at the forefront of electronic dance music for nearly a decade, leaving his mark in every facet of the game: as a gifted producer, a boundary-pushing DJ and promoter, a forward-thinking co-founder of an influential label, a cultivator of new talent, and, increasingly, as an envoy who brings electronic music to new spaces and platforms.
Growing up in Brighton, Connolly began DJing, producing and promoting club nights during his teenage years. In 2008, he made his debut under his L-Vis 1990 moniker, releasing an eponymous EP full of wobbly, in-your- face dance tracks partially inspired by the work of New York trendsetter Drop The Lime. The cut “Change the Game” caught the ear of Alex Sushon – aka London talent Bok Bok – and its title would serve as an unofficial mission statement for the soon-to-be creative partners. Connolly relocated to London, and – frustrated by the city’s stagnant and unsatisfying scene – he teamed with Sushon for the Night Slugs club night, shining a spotlight up-and-coming talent from London and beyond, including Oneman, Lil Silva, Geeneus, Roska and Kode9.
As Night Slugs gained notoriety, so did L-Vis 1990. In 2009, he released breakthrough tracks on a pair of leading labels: the sawtoothed banger “United Groove” on Mad Decent and the pulsating “Compass / Zahonda” on Sound Pellegrino – dance floor favourites that would partially presage what would follow. His approach to fathoms-deep house music with elements of UK funky and UK garage would soon come into focus on an EP that he split with Bok Bok.
The Night Slugs EP would set the stage for their label of the same name. Launched in 2010, the label’s first year would prove to be an unimpeachable one. Groundbreaking releases by Mosca, Egyptrixx, Girl Unit, Kingdom, Lil Silva and Jam City established Night Slugs on the leading edge of club music informed not just by the traditions of Chicago house and Detroit techno but also Southern hip-hop and UK grime and beyond. Soon, the name “Night Slugs” – and that of its sister label, Fade to Mind – would practically become synonymous with a large swath of club music, leaving a trail of descendants (and pale imitators) in its wake.
As L-Vis 1990, Connolly helped anchor that first slate of releases with Forever You, paying tribute to classic house music but with his eyes firmly on the horizon. The EP would serve as a starting point for 2011’s Neon Dreams, an album that recreated not just dreams but memories and prophecies in lush, hardware-only tones and the lurid Technicolor's of house, electro and synth-pop. Created in collaboration with Javeon McCarthy, Samantha Lim and French electronic icons Teki Latex and Para One, the album is a soundtrack for the late night drives and youth-in-revolt adventures of the videos for “Lost in Love” and “Tonight,” which Connolly co- directed.
After Neon Dreams, Connolly pivoted again, inaugurating Night Slugs’ Club Constructions, a series of stripped- down, raw-and-rugged releases inspired by the club-ready tracks of influential Chicago labels like Dance Mania and Underground Construction. Similarly-tuned music by Lil Silva, Jam City, Helix and Girl Unit (under his Hysterics moniker) would follow, as would a re-release of KW Griff’s seminal Baltimore club track “Bring in the Katz” (along with bringing the raucous club smash to a larger audience, L-Vis 1990 provided a Night Slugs- esque dub of the track). Connolly’ s laser focus on body-jacking, straight-ahead club music would drive his new music, first on the Circuits EP for Clone’s Jack For Daze imprint and eventually under his Dance System alias.
Connolly has continued to embrace the collaborative spirit that both informed his debut album and the Night Slugs catalog. He teamed with Fractal Fantasy mastermind Sinjin Hawke for a pair of brash club tracks and then with David Psutka (aka Egyptrixx) as Limit, releasing an eponymous EP that is both euphoric and expansive on Psutka’s Halocline Trance imprint. And despite that moniker, his artistic endeavours have not been limited to the dancefloor: he composed music for Matthew Stone’s hybrid, multimedia opera "Love Focused Like A Laser,” soundtracked a feature-length documentary, and co-directed a short film about Dat Oven's mysterious “Icy Lake,” an iconic ballroom track which he helped unearth and re-release via Night Slugs and Fade to Mind.
In 2014, Connolly returned to Night Slugs with Ballads; at times pneumatic, seductive, stark and lush, the EP serves as a culmination of his work as L-Vis 1990. Under his and Sushon’s watchful eyes, the label continues to explore new frontiers in electronic music, ranging from Jam City’s metamorphic Dream A Garden LP to club material from spiritual successors like Neana and J-Heat. With that same steady hand and eye for talent, he has moved on to developing fresh new voices, co-producing the Warp Records debut by experimental pop artist Lafawndah and working with Afrobeats pioneer Mista Silva, London upstarts Flohio, Gaika, and others.
Whether producing by himself or with collaborators; operating one of electronic music’s finest labels; scoring documentaries, fashion shows and hybrid operas; or DJing gigs across the globe, L-Vis 1990 continues to leave an indelible mark in the ever-changing world of electronic dance music. On his first release, he set out to “Change the Game.” He’s already done that – and he’s just getting started.