Clem Leek was a new name to me on the electroacoustic/drone/ambient scene but this British artist from Kent has a number of successful finished works in his catalog already.  

His first EP ‘Through the Annular’ was released in 2009 on the self published Schedios Records label. The four tracks barely hinted at the latent talent that was to emerge in the more complex arrangements of later works and consisted largely of untreated piano laid over some fairly harsh 78 vinyl crackle.  

The second EP ‘Snow Tales’ appeared as a free download on the Experimedia label. It was recorded in just two days over the Winter of 2009 which is a staggering achievement. Although Clem describes it as ‘a very raw piece of work’ I find it very accomplished and a clear development in complexity and musical style over the first EP with many of the signature sounds of the forthcoming album ‘Holly Lane’. 

The third EP ‘Pimlico’ was a collaborative work with Jannick Schou released as a 3″ CDr limited edition of just 60 copies (now sold out) on the Dead Pilot Records label in August. This is an achingly beautiful 15 minute ambient drone piece with subtle use of field recordings. You can still listen to it on Soundcloud here

The forthcoming full album release ‘Holly Lane’ on the Hibernate Records label is a clear culmination of all that has gone before and what a blissfully enjoyable work of art this album is! 

From the opening booming chime and ominous ticking of a clock we are led through ‘Mystery Manor’ on a carpet of string laden melody which is accompanied at times by a distorted electronic beat and ghostly vocals. This track has you thinking that you may be in for a rather eerie and haunting soundscape tour of Clem’s local scenery judging by the titles of each track, but before that theme is explored further you are dropped into the ocean on ‘At The Mercy of The Waves’. This track opens with waves gently lapping at the shoreline and is really a classic piece of relaxation inducing ambient with a simple drone overlain by spacious celestial chords that rise and fade. 

Having soothed our inner being the third track ‘Holly Lane’ plunges us back into more unsettling territory with breathy vocals over a field recording of what may be vinyl crackle or light rain at the start. A slowly evolving string drone develops and there is an unnerving deep pulse in the background which is not unlike a hearbeat. The track ends on a wonderfully drawn out bassy string drone that winds down slowly over the fading pulse. ‘Mistletoe Lane’, the fourth track, feels suitably hushed and wintry with dark washes of string based drone topped by heavily manipulated guitar like sounds.  ‘Greylings Manor’ is surely haunted as you are greeted at the door by cavernous swirling voices before sublime delayed piano notes and strings with lashings of reverb develop along with some interesting recorded effects. ‘Smugglers Top’ and ‘Cliff Castle’ take us through similarly fascinating territory using sparse effects-laden guitar passages, archive radio recordings, mechanical pulses and ghostly vocal phrases. This heady mix culminates on the eighth track with ‘The Burnt House’ which is probably my favourite soundscape on the album. It opens with wind howling through the shell of the house over a curious sampled pulse. A string drone rises and we then get some truly delicious violin inspired sounds that intermingle with a distorted vocal phrase and other ghostly vocals until the violin slips and slides to a long fade.

This is an amazing debut album that will send pleasant shivers up your spine. It is often both transcendingly beautiful and haunting at the same time as you navigate the mysterious sonic landscape that Clem has conjured up for us.  I highly recommend that you get a copy of this album and discover Clem’s secret world for yourself.

‘Holly Lane’ by Clem Leek on Hibernate Records (HB19)

There are three editions: A limited edition of 40 includes a bonus 3″ CD – this CD album comes in a 4 panel gatefold cover and the whole thing is packaged in a handmade fabric sleeve, only available via hibernate. A standard edition of 200 – CD packaged in a 4 panel gatefold cover. Digital edition via iTunes, Amazon, Napster and eMusic. Release Date: Late August/September TBA