K. Leimer: The Useless Lesson
Palace of Lights

Accompanying notes to Kerry Leimer's The Useless Lesson characterize its content as “constructed and deconstructed pieces juxtaposed to disclose the contrasts and commonality of organizing and recognizing sound into and as music”—a description one should promptly ignore, as such abstruseness fails to communicate anything of the music's beauty, and, furthermore, offers little insight into the production methodologies Leimer deployed to create the album's seven pieces. No matter: this is a disarming and oft-beautiful collection that seamlessly merges ambient, electronic, and classical forms into magnificent wholes. The album is largely comprised of heavenly meditative settings with a couple of more earthbound, drum-based pieces appearing at its center.

The opening pieces set the bar remarkably high: “To Force Closed Our Eyes” introduces the album with mournful string patterns that recall Gorecki's Symphony No. 3 (aka Symphony of Sorrowful Songs), and “Failing Need Of More,” a fourteen-minute collaboration by Leimer and phonographer Anode, billows heavenly like a gargantuan, almost imperceptibly moving cloud mass. In the becalmed ambient drone “Long After Dowland,” Leo Abrahams' electric guitar scatters crystalline flecks over blurry whorls of string-drenched tones that stretch panoramically across the piece's sixteen-minute running time. The classical string writing of “Trio (Sentimental Music)” upholds the sublime level of the opening pieces, while tolling bells and mournful strings in the elegiac closer “Declension Of Need” bring the album full circle. “Music That Conceives Of Itself As Music,” an animated fusion of melancholy classical and dance rhythms where bowed strings collide with tribal percussion patterns, is the more successful of the two drum-based settings. The album's only relative misstep is “Anosognosia,” a collaboration between Leimer and Nepenthe artist Dwight Ashley, where heavy drumming and electric guitars push the piece into a slow-moving, atmospheric post-rock zone that's less satisfying than other pieces—a small price to pay, however, when all else is so strong (with it removed, the album would still clock in at fifty minutes). By album's end, I'm none the wiser as to how Leimer produced The Useless Lesson (one presumes the pieces were assembled electronically from samples and field elements) but the largely glorious results speak loudly enough all by themselves.

September 2007