Clem Leek: Holly Lane

As its allusive title suggests, Holly Lane is evocative in the extreme. The forty-three-minute album debut from British composer and Schedios label head Clem Leek (whose EPs previously appeared on Experimedia and Dead Pilot) traffics in a refined electronic-ambient style that's not unlike Helios, though Leek distances himself from other electronic artists by including atmospheric enhancements to a greater degree. In this instance, said enhancements are of the distinctly brooding type, a move that gives Leek's music an added gravitas. The release presents eight elegiac set-pieces of sculpted electroacoustic sound, with much of it wrapped in a blanket of synthetic fog and accented with field recordings (such as burbling water in “At the Mercy of the Waves”). During the album, the gentle murmur of a choir drifts alongside a blurry swirl of pianos and guitars (“Smugglers Top”), and keening string tones resonate within a thick, shuddering haze (“Mistletoe Lane”).

After springing to life with the sing-song chimes of a grandfather clock, “Mystery Moor” develops its haunted character patiently, using a funereal tick-tock rhythm as an anchor for the synthetic tones and willowy atmospheres surging over it. The title track drapes elegant swathes of long string figures over a rippling base of vinyl crackle and near-subliminal rumbling, while ghostly voices and decomposing piano chords echo throughout the long-abondoned chambers of “Greylings Manor.” Holly Lane's most moving piece comes at album's end when mournful string melodies rise from the smoldering ruins of “The Burnt Home” in a track that wouldn't sound out of place on a Max Richter recording. Song titles like “Greylings Manor” and “Cliff Castle” help strengthen the material's oft-musty character, and the note adorning the package itself—“Through the cold air and fog I reached Holly Lane. My journey had just begun”—likewise adds to this fine album's mystique.

December 2010