K. Leimer: Imposed Order / Imposed Absence
Palace of Lights

K. Leimer: Mitteltöner
Origin Peoples

As far as I know, Lifetime Achievement Awards aren't given out to electronic music producers, but if they were, one possible recipient for it would have to be Kerry Leimer. The man has, after all, been a creative force in electronic music circles since the early ‘70s and continues to be a vital presence through the work he's producing today; Leimer's colleagues must assuredly look upon his longevity and discography with admiration, if not awe. Interestingly, two new releases by him cast their gaze backwards, albeit in different ways: his vinyl Mitteltöner set for Origin Peoples, all of it newly created material, revisits the pioneering period associated with Cluster, John Foxx, Kraftwerk, Bill Nelson, and Faust; the two-CD collection on his own Palace of Lights supplements a remaster of 1983's Imposed Order with unreleased work collectively titled Imposed Absence produced in the fifteen years after that 1983 release.

Mitteltöner features ten kosmische- and krautrock-styled tracks that reference UK- and Germany-associated artists as cultural touchstones, the track titles alone intimating as much. How unusual but pleasing it is to hear him dig into something as beat-powered and guitar-laden as “Dunne Luft,” but its motorik vibe is hardly the album's only memorable detail. Whereas burbling synthesizers and tinkling pianos imbue “Anode” and “Auf Einem Fahrrad” with a resplendent, Cluster-like sheen, “Entferntemusik” creaks and shivers threateningly as it buzzes with nine minutes of industrial static. Speaking voices situate “London Interiors” and “German Defaults” within specific milieus, with the latter track's wiry pulsating patterns as evocative of today's Raster-Noton crew as ‘70s electronic producers, and much like Bowie's “V-2 Schneider,” Leimer's playful “Cafe Florian” pays tribute to the one-time Kraftwerk member but also Popol Vuh's Florian Fricke, a hugely influential figure in his own right. Mitteltöner might be Leimer honouring his influential forebears, but don't mistake it for an exercise in replication: their music is refracted through his distinctive lens, and the result ultimately reflects Leimer's always adventurous sensibility more than anyone else's.

Not surprisingly, Imposed Order / Imposed Absence presents a much different Leimer than the one on Mitteltöner. In contrast to the latter's nods to kosmische and krautrock, the first disc in the Palace of Lights collection at times suggests commonalities with My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and especially Fourth World, Vol. 1: Possible Musics (it's worth noting that the former was released in 1981 and the latter 1980, three years before Imposed Order). Certainly the set's first half is very much a product of its time: a setting such as the motorik, percussion-driven “The Human Condition” is stylistically light years removed from Leimer's recent output, and the ambient miniature “Simple Hierarchies” could easily pass for a lost instrumental track from Another Green World; on the other hand, the closing “Method, Language and Silence” feels closer in spirit to what he'd doing now, its analog sound design notwithstanding. Elsewhere, that Fourth World quality announces itself audibly in “Shallows” and “Wajang Kulit,” whereas “Water Music” sees a noticeable Asian character permeating the music's meditative, New Age-styled make-up.

In the eight-page booklet accompanying the eighty-six-minute set, the period following the release of Imposed Order is referred to as one of “struggle between commerce and art hampered by the effort to somehow transition from analog to digital instruments.” That break turned out to be lengthy, given that The Listening Room, the next Leimer release to appear on Palace of Lights, materialized in 2002. He never stopped creating during that gap, however, even if what was produced didn't see public release—until now, with Imposed Absence presenting ten pieces recorded during that nineteen-year stretch. One hears in the material Leimer exploring new stylistic directions and adopting new production methodologies, the addition of the Kurzweil Digital Synthesizer to the analog gear used for the 1983 album a significant move. Surprising too is how stripped-down certain pieces are, none more so than the serene piano-only settings “Interval,” “Intervene,” and “Intervein.” If there's a difference between the two halves, it's the subtler hand Leimer plays in Imposed Absence; with the exception of the punchy “The Uneven Ritual,” which wouldn't sound out of place on Mitteltöner, the percussive dimension on Imposed Order is downplayed in favour of atmospheric scene-painting in the second half, with brooding soundscapes such as “A Nostalgia” and “The Surround” evidencing a refinement and sophistication emblematic of his later work.

January 2018