John Lemke: Walizka
Denovali Records

Adding to the musical appeal of Glasgow-based sound designer John Lemke's Walizka EP is the fact that, on production grounds, its three originals were generated, in part, by combining improvised clarinet playing by Lukasz Bernacki with rhythms Lemke generated by tapping contact microphones. Such wizardry isn't, of course, all that uncommon in our times, but there's no denying how musically compelling the results are in this case, and at forty-two minutes, the EP, its originals supplemented with four remixes, is generously packed, too.

“Walizka” receives major boosts from both its sing-song, piano-like melodies and insistent, house-tinged swing. It's hardly the kind of thing one might imagine as a floor-filler, yet there's no denying the tune's infectious groove and blithe spirit. As the song progresses, it grows ever more clear that its production history is a less noteworthy detail than the compositional craft in play. If “Walizka” adheres to the electroacoustic character of Lemke's debut album, 2013's People Do, “Kompass” parts company with it altogether in its full embrace of dub techniques and atmosphere. And not just generic dub, either, but specifically the texture-heavy dub captured so memorably by Pole on his 1998 full-length. The third original, “Drift,” returns to the house-fueled drive of the title cut, though this time with a funky R'n'B bass line in tow.

The remixes are a markedly ambient-styled collection by comparison, with few if any of Lemke's beat elements retained by his fellow Denovali artists. A rhythm dimension is present in Petrels' sumptuous “Drift” treatment, even if the rhythms now feel more rooted in African soil than the original; Piano Interrupted, on the other hand, eschews beats in recasting “Walizka” as an elegant, piano-heavy rumination. In arguably the most radical makeover, Everyday Dust exchanges the dub-techno design of “Kompass” for something closer in spirit to spooky dark ambient, while SaffronKeira transforms the same original into a trademark SaffronKeira production: orchestrally rich electronica teeming with brooding atmosphere and detail. As the press material for the release astutely notes, it makes more sense to describe the pieces as re-imaginings rather than remixes.

June 2014