LEAK – Redemption

The ‘dark-ambient’ genre anno 2005 is blooming wildly. In the past, there were just a few acts that (now labelled as cult), deliberately made ambient that was ‘dark’. Lustmord was one of them, and he held a quite unique position in the ambient landscape. Today, there are tons of labels releasing tons of projects making dark-ambient. It has become a genre with typical cliché’s, typical droning sounds and typical samples. Some Gregorian choirs, some bells, a few distant rumblings and repetition and you have your own self-made dark-ambient record. I have no problem with good dark-ambient in the standard Raison d’etre or Lustmord tradition, but I can t get really enthusiastic anymore, unless….

For me, the LEAK album ‘The old teahouse’, released on Cold Meat Industry a few years back, was a revelation. It had standard dark-ambient ingredients, but it was unlike any other project around. They had their own unique sound. It was sometimes harsh, sometimes chaotic but always carefully planned out structure and balance. This, combined with moments of peaceful tranquillity and astounding melody was a pure orgasmic experience for me.

When the German (now Texan I believe) label State-Art promised to release LEAK’s new album ‘Redemption’ I was wildly in love with State-Art’s Deidre for being such a nice girl and give me what was rightfully mine: ‘Redemption’. I was naïve and should have known that life is no joyful surprise-party.

‘Redemption’ is a bit of a disappointment. This is not the fault of LEAK, because the five untitled tracks they present on the record are well-produced, deep droning electro-acoustic songs. But I expected something different. All the melodies are gone and more disturbing to me: the variation is gone. The drones are droning minutes after another, and die out. Track two for example, has a fade-in that lasts approximately four minutes! Track four is a different story, the song is as minimal as the others but has noise bursts that make Sutcliffe Jugend or Whitehouse seem pitiful choirboys. Listening to the genre as you should (in bed with headphones on), this track makes you beat your discman to a messy pulp. Track five however, is great, with the sound of steel clashing and distorted horn-blowing, but this is an exception.

If you haven’t heard the masterpiece ‘The old teahouse’, you’ll probably like ‘Redemption’. In my case: I should have learned from Schopenhauer stating: ‘High expectations can only lead to disillusion.’

The second album from LEAK, two Swedish musicians formerly active in the project Heid. I missed their debut album on Cold Meat in 2001, but I read some good thing about it. They also did an interesting split cd with Kosmophon last year for Fin de Siècle Media. “Redemption” contains five untitled tracks, most of which are rather minimal and inacessible soundscapes. They might be appreciated by dark ambient listeners, though the two composers come more from an academic electro-acoustic background.

The first track calls for patience, since it begins with various minutes which appear to be silent. Large parts of this 15 min. track are quite minimal, with a barely audible drone and microscopic crispy sounds. The volume is somewhat turned up on ‘Untitled II’, with a repetive hypnotizing sound and slowly shifting patterns in the background. Track three starts with a nostalgic waltz and marching sounds, followed by noisy radio frequencies. It turns out to be a short intermezzo before ‘Untitled IV” begins. You try to decipher what metallic sounds you hear, when you are surprised by a blast of noise, a huge wall of sound, is it torture or catharsis? My favourite piece is probably ‘Untitled V’, with all kinds of subtle percussive elements, giving it a mysterious, ritual character.

“Redemption” is not your ordinary dark ambient album, but contains rather challenging compositions, which demand concentrated listening. Some parts appeal to me, others are a little too obscure for my taste.

artist: LEAK
label: Stateart
details: 5 tracks, 2005 [Avant 010]