In keeping with its pencil-drawn cover illustration, UK-based composer and multi-instrumentalist Clem Leek intentionally chose to keep Lifenotes‘ songs, in his own words, “very basic and raw.” But while there may be bedroom-styled production ambiance in play, there’s nothing unfinished about the material in terms of quality. The album’s sixteen pieces, old and new pieces alike, capture the full range of his composing gifts and command of multiple instruments, including piano, violin, and guitar, and software, such as Logic and Ableton Live. Some tracks are more piano-centered, while others use guitar as the point of lift-off. Regardless of the contrasts in arrangement, the material exudes a strong emotional punch, given the plaintive character of the songs and Leek’s willingness to wear his heart on his sleeve so openly.
The album’s pieces generally slot themselves into one of three categories: solo piano pieces, guitar settings, and field recordings-based meditations. Leek has sequenced the album, however, in such a way that the songs within each category type are dispersed, a move that camouflages to some degree the fact that the album’s material can be grouped into said categories. Regardless, “Breaking Down,” “Rain Song,” and “Trying Too Hard” are lovely piano settings that put Leek in the same category as Nils Frahm and Peter Broderick, as far as sensitivity and melodic gifts are concerned. One might even be reminded of Michael Nyman or Philip Glass when piano chords alternate so insistently during the lilting “The Diary I Never Kept.” Ambient noises are often audible, whether it be the creak of the piano bench or the instrument’s keys or someone making noise in an adjoining room, and rather than being distractions the sounds enhance the album’s personalized and intimate feel. One of the album’s prettiest pieces is “You’re So Very Far Away,” which is elevated by the graceful swoop and peal of the electric guitar, while “Past the Pasture and Beyond the Hill” is elevated by a violin’s mournful cry. Lifenotes covers many bases, as outdoors field recordings play a part in the recording, too, with a river’s flow and bird chirps heard respectively on the ambient settings “The Middle Part” and “November 11th,” and there’s also a rare excursion into experimental electro-acoustic drone territory (“Origami Soldiers”). Most of the songs are in the two-minute range, which on paper hardly seems long enough for a powerful emotional impact to be generated. Yet Leek manages to do so, with his compact vignettes enably inducing an affecting emotional response in the listener.
In Hamburg geht grad die Welt unter. Der richtige Zeitpunkt, bei diesem Schietwetter beruhigende Musik raus zu kramen, über die ich schon seit längerer Zeit mal was machen wollte. An solch einem Sonntag ist es nun soweit, wo kein Stück Kuchen, kein Becher warmer Tee und auch keine noch so schöne Kerze etwas entgegen zusetzen haben. Da hilft aber Musik, denn die richtige Wahl kann aus dunklen Wolken wahren Sonnenschein zaubern. So auch…
Ein Album voller Emotionen. Es nimmt den Hörer an die Hand und spaziert mit ihm durch kunstvolle Klangwelten, die der junge Leek auf seinem Tasteninstrument kreieren kann. Die 16 Lieder wurden mit großer Sorgfalt eingespielt und auf einem Tonträger gebracht, der genauso reduziert gestaltet wurde, wie die Musik auf der Scheibe. Nur das nötigste, was Schönheit ausmacht, wird hier in den Fokus gesetzt.
Seit längerer Zeit nun endlich von mir ein Import-Tipp, da Lifenotes in Deutschland (noch) nicht zu haben ist – jedenfalls nicht in physischer Form. Clem Leek hat aber großes Potential uns noch mehr mit solch großartiger Musik zu verwöhnen. Seine Diskografie spricht Bände…
Lifenotes est un carnet de croquis, d’œuvres de circonstances et d’instantanés. Le format d’un album – le second après Holly Lane (Hibernate, 2010) – mais la même spontanéité et la même simplicité confondante que Through The Annular et Snow Tales, les deux EP qui ont inauguré la discographie du jeune Anglais.
Les seize titres de Lifenotes semblent être rassemblés comme au gré d’un inventaire, au hasard de la mémoire, pour être présentés à nos sens, accompagnés d’un simple et humble « hum… voilà… je vous laisse avec ces petits instants. » Ce sont les témoins d’un talent brut, qui n’est pour l’heure jamais aussi flagrant que lorsqu’il s’offre ce plaisir des bonheurs de peu de choses et de bon goût. Au cœur de ce panier gourmand, le rôle central du piano, sobre et minimaliste. Chuchoté en charmantes gouttes. Mais aussi, des caresses de cordes à petites touches. Et pour la première fois, une guitare, fluide et limpide. On pense à July Skies, autre impressionniste de l’english countryside.
Lifenotes. Une ligne claire, d’évidence et de douceur. Les couleurs et la rondeur des saveurs d’automne. Compote de pommes et de coings. Éclats de cannelle et de poivre de Sichuan.
Vorige maand heb ik al gesteld dat het kwaliteitslabel Drifting Falling een ware hofleverancier van de dromerige muziek begint te worden en ergens in het rijtje van Kranky, Darla, n5MD en Under The Spire past. Op het label verschijnen uiteenlopende artiesten uit diverse genres die als gemene deler hebben dat de dromerigheid voorop staat. Dat wordt andermaal onderstreept door de nieuwe, officieel pas zijn tweede cd Lifenotes van Clem Leek, die eerder al een cd, cd-r’s, mini’s en cassettes uitbrengt op labels als Hibernate, Schedios, Dead Pilot, Rural Colours, Experimedia, Brian en Gizeh. Daarnaast geeft hij eerder dit jaar acte de presènce op de compilaties For Nihon en Kanshin, beide ten bate voor de slachtoffers in Japan. Deze Britse muzikant en multi-instrumentalist (piano, viool, gitaar, elektronica, veldopnames, drones en diverse andere instrumenten) brengt op zijn nieuwe cd wederom dromerige, verstilde en bovenal filmische muziek, die hij speciaal voor dit jaargetijde wellicht herfstachtig inkleurt. De hoofdmoot wordt gevormd door de droefgeestige pianoklanken, waarop hij zijn uiteenlopende creaties bouwt. De ene keer overheersen de veldopnames en drones en op andere momenten brengt hij ook andere instrumenten als viool en gitaar in stelling. Daarmee laveert hij op fraaie wijze tussen neoklassiek, ambient en minimale post-rock. Alle composities, die slechts tussen de minuut en 3,5 minuut eindigen, lijken zo weg te zijn gelopen uit een denkbeeldige film. Het geheel houdt het midden tussen Library Tapes, Max Richter, Dustin O’Halloran, Nils Frahm, Aaron Martin, Goldmund, Peter Broderick, Philip Glass, Wim Mertens en Michael Nyman. Stuk voor stuk zijn het breekbare, melancholische en bovenal wonderschone composities geworden, die diep onder de huid kruipen. Heerlijk om je gedachten en verbeelding even de vrije loop te laten. Zoals hij zelf in de cd stelt: “When your body hurts with emotion, only then do you know who you are”. Prachtige droomplaat!
Last month, I have argued that the quality Drifting Falling a true purveyor of dreamy music and starts to be somewhere in the list of Kranky, Darla, and n5MD Under The Spire fits. The label will appear different artists from various genres such as the common denominator that dreaminess comes first. This is again underlined by the new, officially begins his second CD Life Notes from Clem Leek , who earlier CD, CD-Rs, mini’s and cassettes an opinion on labels such as Hibernate, CAL Dios, Dead Pilot, Rural Colours, Experimedia, Brian and Giza . He also earlier this year will be present on the compilations For Nihon and Kanshin , both for the benefit of the victims in Japan. This British musician and multi-instrumentalist (piano, violin, guitar, electronics, field recordings, drones and various other instruments) takes on his new CD again dreamy, quiet and most cinematic music that he composed especially for this time of year perhaps autumnal coloring. The main part is the melancholy piano notes, which he builds his various creations. Sometimes dominate the field recordings and drones, and at other times, he provides other instruments like violin and guitar position. That he navigates nice way between neo-classical, ambient and minimal post-rock. All compositions, only minutes and 3.5 minutes between the end seem to have walked away as from an imaginary movie. The whole is a cross between Library Tapes, Max Richter, Dustin O’Halloran, Nils Frahm, Aaron Martin, Goldmund, Peter Broderick, Philip Glass, Wim Mertens and Michael Nyman . Each one the fragile, melancholic and most beautiful compositions became deeply under the skin crawl. Great to here your thoughts and imagination free rein. As he himself states in the CD: “When your body hurts with emotion, only then do you know who you are.” Beautiful dream album!
…according to our Brian on 14 October 2011.
This appears to be Clem Leek’s “24 Postcards in Colour” with around twice the amount of tracks as his lovely collection for Hibernate. Unfurling with sombre wisps of drift, piano flourishes and a Morse code track that I never want to fade out, I’m reminded heavily of the Le Lendemain CD from a couple of years back. Now we’re into the journey sights you may see are yearning chamber violin yawns seduced by sensual guitar exploration, sad-eyed choccie box piano interludes a la early Nils Frahm, meandering sun-kissed post-rock daydreams, vignettes comprised of field recording hiss and two-rooms-down-the-hallway piano and some lively birdsong sound-tracking some more longing piano musings. A sweet collection of briefer, charming pieces, lovingly rendered and presented in another sweet Christopher Robin-esque sleeve. I like this guys stuff lots and this seems like a nice counter-release to file alongside the brilliant ‘Holly Lane’.
Clem Leek only released his debut last year, but he already has several releases to his name and shows a maturity that dwarfs his experience. As a composer and multi-instrumentalist, Clem Leek navigates his tracks between a variety of genres, providing the listener with a constant source of intrigue and discovery. On Lifenotes, the artist plays to his compositional strengths by creating sketches of tracks that are as uninhibited as they are poignant. Although brief and sometimes rather sparse, the tracks on Lifenotes are never short on expression and demonstrate just how skilled Clem Leek has become at communicating with the audience. Less is often more, and Lifenotes is careful to not impose itself upon the listener; rather, the album passively unfolds and slowly draws the unsuspecting into its magnificence.
Multi-instrumentalist creates a personal work of art
Clem Leek is a young lad with maturity far beyond his years, producing haunting pieces of neo-classical compositions which capture the full spectrum of emotions that we expierience throughout our existance. Aptly titled, the album features 16 exquisite tracks which are each a quick sketch on various pivotal moments in life; be they joyful or bleak. The multi-instrumentalist combines minimal guitar, piano and violin work with more experimental samples like bird song to create a release which drifts through the senses and oozes pure emotion.
The beauty of the album comes in its simplicity. Clem himself says; ‘For this cd it was all about getting back to basics and recording pieces which were simple, which happens to be my best way of writing’. And that’s what shines through on the record; the fact that Clem is obviously putting his heart and soul into each reflective track. It’s sometimes brooding, sometimes stark, sometimes uplifting but you can guarantee that every second of Lifenotes is rich, raw and genuine. This is one for the loner, content with turning the lights down low and embracing the resonant ‘soundworlds’ that Clem creates through his haunting piano pieces.
Taking inspiration from composers like Steve Rich and Philip Glass, it’s hard to believe that Clem only released his debut album last year as Lifenotes establishes itself as a work of a genius craftsmen able of producing delicate and intricate pieces with what feels like effortless splendour. One track is entitled; ‘The Diary I Never Kept’ which I think is what Lifenotes acts as; it’s a way of taking note of his young life thus far. Indeed Clem states; ‘Lifenotes is a combination of old and new pieces, each one is very close to me heart’. It’s this dichotomy between the old and new which I think echoes throughout the album; it is both a reflective look back and a tentative hope for the future.
From listening to ‘Lifenotes,’ the new record from British composer Clem Leek, one can intercept many of its qualities. The album is full bodied in its approach, in that it shows the musician in his most wide-ranging form to date. However it also houses a minimalist style that feels like new territory for an artist previously associated with scores of grander scope. Yet given the name of the record, and the fragmented, miniature compositions at hand, one senses an album that provides a snapshot into the artist’s life and the influences that have shaped his approach to sound creation.
Across this 16 track album, there seems to be three styles of recording at hand. These can in fact be drawn from the opening three songs. Starting with ‘Page 1,’ a familiar veil of ambient glitches and electronic noises are fused with gentle piano and violins. The second track ‘Past the Pasture and Beyond the Hill’ focuses more on stringed instruments with a slow diving electric guitar gracing the score and working in close tandem with soothing violins. The result is a pleasant molding of dreamy yet uplifting melodies. On track three the final aesthetic style of the album is established; that of the solo piano. Here listeners are treated to the minute, yet richly emotive playing that has become a prominent fixture within the experimental music scene. It is by no means a co-incidence that the artist cites fellow pianist Keith Kenniff as an influence on his music with the solo piano compositions holding a Goldmund-esque feel to them.
These styles are then referenced throughout the album, but not in a repeated order. Listeners will be sure to enjoy the ambient and field-recording infused songs like ‘The Middle Part’ and ‘November 11th’ while ‘The Diary I Kept’ holds shades of Max Richter in its take on piano scoring. Likewise, the graceful guitar play on ‘You’re So Very Far Away’ is certain to touch the emotions of listeners.
‘Lifenotes’ embodies many of the qualities that we love from a musical movement that is hard to classify as one particular style. A collection of songs that appear both personal and styled by many different influences, it is clear Clem Leek is a musician who is an avid listener as well as partaker within this musical foundation.
– Josh Atkin for Fluid Radio
Clem Leek’s CV makes for impressive reading. He earned a Creative Arts degree and a Masters in Music Composition from Bath Spa University and since then has released records on various labels. ‘Lifenotes’ can be seen as a compilation of sorts, since it assembles both old and new selections of his work so far.
With its fragments of static, stark piano and mournful strings, there’s the rarefied, pastoral air of Talk Talk or even Hood for the opener ‘Page One’. Leek adds colour via thunderstorms for ‘The Middle Part’ and bird song for ‘November 11th’ but otherwise he keeps things simple.
Solo piano compositions, such as ‘Breaking Down’, are interspersed with guitar instrumentals; with ‘You’re So Very Far Away’ representing an acoustic form of nostalgic yearning. By the finale ‘Closing’, the record has come full circle with a violin contribution to match the first track.
In this case, less is definitely more. Leek is a skilful and versatile performer with a great ear for melody, who relies on minimal electronic backing. ‘Lifenotes’ may not flow as easily as the best instrumental records but its highlights are numerous.
The album cover image may suggest this is another piano-based album. Not true, although the piano plays an important role.
The first two tracks on his new album Lifenotes clearly demonstrate that Clem Leek is a multi-instrumentalist, playing piano, as well as violin, guitar and various other instruments.
Along the album, the main instruments vary but the atmosphere remains effectively restrained.
“This CD was all about getting back to basics and recording pieces that were simple, which happens to be my best way of writing.”
“When your body hurts with emotion, only then do you know who you are.”
(inner sleeve statement)
Though Lifenotes may be an emotional album, that does not mean it’s a sad album.
Besides the different instruments Clem plays, he adds some delicate sound effects and field recordings to enhance the variety of acoustic images. This is what may distinguish his album somewhat from fellow contemporary musicians such as Peter Broderick, Max Richter, Nils Frahm, Dustin O’Halloran, and Helios/Goldmund/Keith Kenniff.
Lifenotes presents 16 tracks in just 35 minutes. This means the tracks are all short, in a range from under a minute to about three minutes for the longest tracks. They are Sketches, in a way, just like the beautiful album cover. Short notes, Lifenotes, indeed.
Piano, guitar, or subtle shortwave electronics (on Origami Soldiers): Clem Leek’s sound and compositions are right on spot. Sparsely coloured, restrained, but simple? I would not dare to call this pieces “simple“.