K. Leimer: The Grey Catalog
Palace of Lights

Though he's been releasing music since the 1970s (as wonderfully documented on A Period Of Review (Original Recordings 1975-1983), issued last year on Rvng Intl.), Kerry Leimer's work continues to evolve, as shown by the fifteen pieces on his latest collection The Grey Catalog. It's somewhat of a change from the style of music the Winnipeg-born, Seattle-based artist has issued previously on his Palace of Lights imprint, which he founded in the late ‘70s with his wife, Dorothy Cross. Whereas much of his recent output has been characterized by restraint and homogeneity, the new album's material is marked by extroversion and heterogeneity. In contrast to the becalmed quietude of ambient music in general, The Grey Catalog's robust settings, which Leimer compiled over a two-year period, are marked by variety and unpredictability. The material feels unconstricted, as if Leimer's purposefully tried to loosen the reins and let his music flow more freely. The result is music of a highly personal and organic caste that brings the listener closer to Leimer than ever before.

With the exception of Shirley Gerrard's drumming contribution to “Poésie,” Leimer, credited with electric guitar and bass, percussion, prepared piano, samples, field recordings, digital synthesis, treatments, and signal reprocessing, produced all of the fifty-five-minute album's sounds. Electronic and acoustic sounds intermingle comfortably in tracks well-balanced between the two, and while there are immediately apparent differences between the pieces, they nevertheless share a generative technique and relatively uniform sonic identity. The aforementioned “Poésie” is one of the heavier tracks, due in large part to Gerrard's drum accents, which punctuate the electronics and French voices with aggressive force; drums appear elsewhere, too, however, as part of Leimer's general sonic design (see, for example, the strings-heavy lament “Casual Suffering”). By way of contrast, the brooding “Europe” conjures the image of a barren Eastern European landscape where the few remaining residents struggle to survive.

A resplendent soundworld rich in keyboards, strings, guitar, bass, and electronics is presented throughout, and it quickly becomes apparent that describing Leimer's material as ambient proves to be a bit of a misnomer. Yes, the tempo is typically slow and the music far from frenetic, but the amplitude of sounds within a given arrangement makes for an always arresting listening experience, and the sonorous flow in a representative piece such as “Sift” is masterfully executed. And as “Absent Quarter” and “Halts” illustrate, the sensibility that comes through the tracks feels as much Eastern as Western, given the material's meditative bent and lulling rhythmic flow.

February 2015