6 Jul 2022

Seattle, Washington

“I’m just sitting alone in this tiny room / Looking at instruments and wondering what to play.”

'An incredible 30-track anthology that covers a huge breadth of styles and forms, but is ultimately serene, peaceful and calming. Expect a dream-like journey.'

'A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975 - 1983) unearths unheard portions of K. Leimer’s vast archives and highlights the work of a self-taught visionary whose use of generative compositions ferried his music to infinite resonance. With its hypnotic, arcadian terraces and nearly narcotic glacial beauty, A Period of Review has a rightful place in the canon of pioneering ambient music.'

RVNG Intl.'s issue of 'A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975 - 1983)' is a wide-reaching and revelatory survey of Kerry Leimer's prescient output operating on the cusp of ambient, 4th World and industrial musics.

From his base in Seattle, Leimer accumulated a unique catalogue of recordings created on a Micromoog, drum machines, guitars and FX units, and heavily informed by imported Krautrock/kosmiche titles sourced outta NME and Melody Maker, and equally the more Anglophilic ambient loop compositions of Robert Fripp and Brian Eno. Almost all of it appeared on his independent record label, Palace Of Lights - a regional forerunner to the likes of Subpop, who wouldn't appear until at least a few years later - and covers a huge breadth of styles and forms, from pastoral tape works reminding of Cluster, thru some amazing, drum machine-driven works which provide this compilation its biggest highlights and firm backbone.

Quite honestly this is the kind of release we could take days to run through track-by-track, but you should be able to gauge form the samples that it's really quite something, and a total must for anyone with a thing for Eno, Arthur Russell, Craig Leon, Oneohtrix Point Never, Sun Araw… -boomkat

You might not have come across K. Leimer before, but don’t let that deter you.

'His interest in music was piqued while he was growing up in Seattle in the early 70s, and had his musical ideas challenged by Can, Neu! and most tellingly Cluster. Realizing he didn’t need classical musical training to start experimenting with recording methods, he acquired a studio’s worth of cheap gear (including a Micromoog and a tape machine) and began to sketch out tracks.

Inspired also by Robert Fripp and Brian Eno’s then brand-new looping techniques, Leimer developed a distinct style of experimental ambient music which he showcased on a slew of cassettes, released on his own Palace of Lights imprint. Brooklyn’s RVNG team have now painstakingly compiled some of Leimer’s most outstanding unheard compositions into A Period of Review – a mammoth compendium spanning the period of 1975-1983.

‘Gisella’ is the first snippet to emerge from the set, and wedges Leimer’s distinctive synthwork in-between tape-saturated wafts of piano. It’s warming, gorgeous stuff – just the kind of music that should help usher in the springtime.' -factmag.com

'When asked about the influence of late ’70s and early ’80s electronic music on his own record, A Period of Review, Seattle ambient pioneer and head of the Palace Of Lights label Kerry Leimer told The Ransom Note:
“What interests me most about “A Period of Review” is the sense that it really is that period now in review. So many years on, in the constant rush and search for something “new” there’s plenty of evidence that alot can be overlooked and never fully comprehended. Especially now, when more work is published than any one individual could ever hope to have even a passing familiarity with, it’s always helpful to at least understand the way ideas and aesthetics about expression originate and evolve.”

A Period In Review (Original Recordings 1975-1983), a lavishly packaged document for RVNG Intl.’s stunning archival series, rewinds the clock to investigate this period through the works of the under-known/under-appreciated luminary, K. Leimer.

Coming from a background in Dada and surrealism, Leimer began making music when his family permanently relocated to Seattle in 1967. Inspired by Cluster’s II, Leimer realized the ability to compose with limited training, and began hauling in a series of Moog synthesizers and tape machines. His next keystone would be the Terry Riley-influenced compositions of Fripp and Eno’s No Pussyfooting, which introduced Leimer to the possibilities of loop-based recordings that would become trademarks of his sound; they led him to create what he described as Generative Music: organic and evolving musical systems.

“The loop provided an instant structure-a sort of fatalism,” Leimer says in the liner notes for, A Period In Review. “The participation of the tape machine in shaping and extending the music was a key to setting self-deterministic systems in motion and held a clear relationship to my interests in fine art.” This exploration of various kinds of world and art music, the limits and possibilities of loop-based music, the tactile power of analog electronics, and a skepticism towards the market’s influence of music, are all ideas that are extremely pertinent to today’s cultural climate, all reminding us why this period is a period worth reviewing and what is so special about Leimer, in particular.

The first and most noticeable thing about the material collected here, is the range and scope of styles Leimer undertakes, from the digital exotica of “Ceylon” to the crisp drum machines of “Entre’acte”; from the outer space ambiance of “From A Common Center” to the crooning artpop of “Lonely Boy”. This is clearly a restless and ceaseless musical imagination at work, taking us back to a time before there were such steep walls between genres. Leimer is clearly drawing from every well; a number of these tracks sound like they could be soundtracks to nature documentaries (“My Timid Desires”), while others, clocking in at a staggering 8 seconds, could be incidental music for commercials (“Commercial”).

A Period In Review could be seen as a missing link in the chain between the early experiments of the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop and the age of art techno experimentation of the ’80s. There’s an almost even 50/50 split between the cut-up bricolage precision of John Baker and Delia Derbyshire’s razor blades, and the infinite riffage of locked sequencers that reminds us of the links between techno and ’60s minimalism.

Still, in a world full of archive raiding re-issues and lost and forgotten geniuses, make makes one proto-electronics release stand out from the rest? What makes A Period In Review so special? Is it worth your time and money?

If you’re interested in any brand or offshoot of any electronic music that has been made in the last 8 years, then yes, absolutely, A Period In Review should go to the top of your “must purchase” list.

Firstly, this is a lovely introduction to what turns out to be a phenomenal indie label, Palace Of Lights. What strikes me most about the output on PoL is how remarkably gorgeous it is, steeped in classicism. See the lovely lead single “Gisella” for examples of how traditional piano melodies are blended with electronic tones and textures to create a next wave classical music. This was coming from a time when most of the underground labels were either plying harsh and aggressive noise, like what was belching from Industrial Records’ smokestacks, or straight-to-the-dancefloor fare. Palace Of Lights was a nexus of artful, cutting-edge sounds that still managed to evoke beauty and emotionality. Seeing as how a lack of emotion is the main criticism leveled at electronic music, this remains as serious a point as ever.

Secondly, while a lot of re-issues seek out ephemera, looking for every lost breadcrumb, trying to find that fabled forgotten genius or undiscovered hit, Leimer never really went anywhere. He’s been making music this whole time, and Palace Of Lights is still operational, which makes this more of a collection than a re-issue, designed to introduce a new generation to a wonderful and under-appreciated innovator in the field of electronic music, although most of the material on A Period In Review is unreleased. There is no feeling of nostalgia or exploitation, here, no feeling of faded glory. This material seems vital, lively, powerful, even if it was made 35 years ago.

While poring over these 30 tracks over and over, it struck me how much of the current experimental music couldn’t exist, if not for the works of Leimer, and people like him. You can find the roots of Oneohtrix Point Never’s Fourth World eccjams in these fertile crescents, or the virtual exotica of James Ferraro. You can hear the hardware hacking of Bass Clef, or pretty much any artist operating on the influential electronic label PAN.

There is also a geographical interest, for any who happen to be reading this from the Pacific Northwest, as Palace Of Lights was an early Northwestern indie label, predating Sub Pop and K Records by a number of years. It could be said, in some regards, that the history of alternative, indie and grunge might’ve looked very different, without the participation of early indies like PoL.

Lastly, and most importantly — and probably the only thing that matters — is how the music sounds. Getting lost in the drifting airs of this double LP is a mesmerizing delight. As expected from the time period, all the gear sounds great, with the Minimoogs sounding as warm as fresh taffy, and the drum machines as crisp as frozen pea pods, all captured in a warm nimbus of tape saturation, like sitting in a cedar sauna. These worlds sound idyllic, floating on the early spring breeze, lazily drifting like underwater currents as your home/office/wherever you listen to music is transformed to unimagined alien mesas, and 4D sylvan forests.

A Period In Review is an essential listen, for anyone with an interest in the history of electronic music, or culture in general, and wondering how we got where we are. It offers us a respite from the disassociated cynicism of referential living, as it is OF the future, not just looking at it. Anybody who has a fondness for any of Brian Eno’s works, for Jon Hassell’s Fourth World musics, the tape degradations of William Basinski or Leyland Kirby, or the digital exotica of James Ferraro or Daniel Lopatin, or a million other cassette purveyors, get this on your turntable, now!' -redefine.mag.net

'For the third installment in RVNG Intl.’s archival series, the tape is wound back to 1970s Seattle, home place of ambient music savant K. Leimer. A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975 – 1983) unearths unreleased portions of Leimer’s vast archives and highlights the work of a self-taught visionary whose use of generative compositions ferried his music to infinite resonance.

Kerry Leimer was born in Winnipeg, Canada. He was raised in Chicago before his family permanently settled in Seattle in 1967. Kerry’s teenage interests and artistic experiments blossomed from the seductively strange tendrils of Dadaism and Surrealism. In the early 70s, Leimer found musical parallels to these visual movements by studying backdated copies of NME and Melody Maker and inquiring with local record store clerks about the exotic descriptions he read of Can, Neu! and Faust – innovators who were bringing the wild dictates of 60s art-discourse into music.

The tape-manipulated serenity Leimer experienced with Cluster’s II was a key revelation. Leimer realized the potential to compose with minimal training and scoured pawnshops for cheap instruments and recording equipment to transpose his wayward musical instincts. Leimer’s sound palette and composition soon refined and heightened with the accessibility of dynamic equipment such as the Micromoog and TEAC multi-track tape machines.

Synchronously, the Terry Riley indebted loop-based compositions of Robert Fripp and Brian Eno’s No Pussyfooting inspired Leimer to form recursive musical passages of bare timbre and melody that would become hallmarks of his sound. “The loop provided an instant structure – a sort of fatalism,” recollects Leimer in A Period of Review’s liner notes. “The participation of the tape machine in shaping and extending the music was a key to setting self-deterministic systems in motion and held a clear relationship to my interests in fine art.”

The underground music scene of Seattle-Olympia in late 70s was small but seeded. The vestiges of prog rock pompously pummeled the few clubs and record shops before punk and New Wave became the rage. Leimer sought to support a growing community of experimental composers by launching the Palace of Lights record label in 1979 with his wife Dorothy Cross (this was years prior to the birth of regional titans K Records and Sub Pop).

Palace of Lights took philosophical and logistical cues from the flourishing DIY cassette culture, but demonstrated a different elegance in its music and design. A testament to his independent and uncompromising spirit, all of Leimer’s recorded work would be released in varying formats and editions on Palace of Lights from ‘79 to ‘83.

Leimer rarely performed live, averting the litmus of instant appreciation for his solitary studio pursuits. Tellingly, the “K.” that abbreviated Leimer’s first name was a nod to Kafka’s doomed pariah Josef K (from The Trial and The Castle). This gives a sense of the reclusive and literary realm Leimer was fond of working in. Despite his reticence, Leimer’s debut 1980 album Closed System Potentials would reach a receptive audience, and eventually sell more than 3,000 copies thanks in part to Cross’s persistent advocation to independent distributors and magazines.

A Period of Review focuses on unheard material outside of the work Leimer offered on Palace of Lights, though even that music could be considered relatively “unheard.” The thirty tracks of A Period of Review may have remained a mystery on moldy reels until now, but Leimer’s entire catalog of generative music remains pristine in its absolute power.

The pieces of A Period of Review draw on many influences of the time, articulating gestures that embrace coolly composed stoicism, saturated fields of percolating beats, stark razed spaces and grave and gently developed glimpses of beauty. Overall, a genuine diversity of expression underscoring just how much range Leimer had at his disposal.

A Period of Review is a rewarding step into the canopied, unheard world of K. Leimer and necessarily grand in scope. With its hypnotic, arcadian terraces and nearly narcotic glacial beauty, A Period of Review has a rightful place in the canon of pioneering ambient music.

K. Leimer’s A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975 – 1983) is available now as a double LP set, CD and digitally via RVNG Intl. Liner notes were crafted by Seattle writer David Segal. Top-tier mastering was done by Greg Davis, who produced the compilation with Palace of Lights artist Robert Carlberg, RVNG and Kerry Leimer himself, who continues making music to this day.' -RVNG Intl.

'Once in a while, a reissue or compilation will shine a light on artist who clearly deserves it. That RVNG Intl. are behind A Period Of Review ought to let you know K. Leimer is one such artist. Leimer deals with a wide range of styles and condenses them into short, digestible pieces, most running around the three-minute mark. Composed between 1975 and 1983, these pieces recall artists like Brian Eno and Steve Reich, bridging pop, avant-garde and modern classical music.

A Period of Review is characterized by its moods, and shows Leimer at his most personal and most escapist. Tracks like "From One To Ten," "All Sad Days" and the strange "Lonely Boy" are bedroom minimal synth in the vein of Ohama or Felix Kubin. All three are quirky, homemade and metallic compared to the rest of the collection. By contrast, pieces like "Entre'acte" and "Archie's Dub" contain the fourth world synthscapes and spacious arrangements that characterize Leimer's more well-known work, like the soundtrack to the dreamlike documentary of Jamaica, Land Of Look Behind. 

It may be a stretch to call Leimer's work ahead of its time—really, most of the pieces here fit snugly next to those of his contemporaries—but it hasn't aged much either, and definitely still resonates today. Leimer's approach is shy, but not naive, and often seamlessly merges the organic and synthetic with playfulness rather than pretension. He's said he's influenced by elegies and "sad music," something that's clear on the pensive "Malaise," "Ceylon" and "Porcelain." All are full of lonely beauty, and seem composed with a heavy sigh. If Leimer's music isn't wholly optimistic, then at the very least it's serene, peaceful and orderly in a hazy, calming way.' -Stephen Kerr

'If you are familiar with Kerry Leimer as the composer and master sound manipulator, prepare to get to know him as the novice tinkerer. As the title suggests, A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975 – 1983) highlights a formative era for the artist who has routinely gone by the name K. Leimer. The kind of music he was doing at this time — minimalism, tape manipulation, textures/layers of various keyboard sounds — was not really a new thing. By 1975, Leimer was already deeply moved by the mysterious inner workings of acts like Can and Cluster. But what was a new concept was the fact that one man, half a world away from the various “scenes” he so admired, could scrounge around in pawn shops for equipment and make equally adventurous recordings without a big budget studio. And with his ambitions, Kerry Leimer began to foster his own little experimental music scene in the Seattle/Olympia area by founding the Palace of Lights record label with his wife. But it’s RVNG Intl. that’s giving us A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975 – 1983), a 30-track, 77-minute stroll through K. Leimer’s archives. Some ideas are strange, others are very compelling. Some barely register as anything.

To call this release eclectic doesn’t do much to describe the quality of the music or what it can do to your brain over prolonged exposure. While it’s true that some of these ideas are taken only partway around the block, the germs inside that idea can be ruthlessly insistent ones. When Leimer was toiling away at recording techniques, trying to nail down that Krautrock sound in the privacy of his own home, he was also stumbling upon some rather sticky themes. Not all of them feel worthy of preservation. Opener “Ceylon” in particular feels harmonically simplistic (when a student would shift their chords up and down a scale, my music theory teacher would call it “Lean On Me” Syndrome). It’s sister track “Porcelain” closes out the collection with a obscured vocal appearance by Nancy Estle. “Explanation of Terms” is seventeen seconds of Leimer (I presume) talking, “Bump In The Night” is a 16-second thud and “Commercial” is an eight-second keyboard doodle. In other words, they probably mean a great deal more to Leimer and his family than the music world at large.

The rest of the collection has the mixed blessing of sounding dated. And while most artists regret having their art labeled as dated, thereby trivializing it, the dated elements of Leimer’s early recordings show an ingenuity that he was able to achieve more than 20 years before amateurs began recording decent-sounding demos on their computers. While time has not been good to digital handclaps, they helped Leimer develop a sense of electronic rhythm on “A Spiritual Life”, “Honey to Ashes”, “Entre’acte” and “Ikumi”. “My Timid Desires” takes percussion cues from another continent, submerging a dreamy motif into rippling waters complete with hollow knocking sounds. On the other end of things, there’s “Lonely Boy”, a two-chord soliloquy with vocals that finds the central character just making stuff up as he goes along: “I’m just sitting alone in this tiny room / Looking at instruments and wondering what to play.”

A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975-1983) is a sketch pad. We can’t really judge this release by the standards to which we hold Kerry Leimer today. In the ’70s, he was thoroughly chasing a mood. And for the most part, he was able to conjure some unique things. When he wasn’t taking the Peter Gabriel approach circa 1981 (trying to blend complex rhythms with elaborate keyboards), he was certainly doing a bang-up job of channeling his inner Hassell/Eno. The songs on A Period of Review were essential to Leimer developing his own style. Whether or not they’re essential to your music library is another matter.' -John Garratt

''Experimental artist Kerry Leimer self-released his and others' work on his Palace of Lights imprint, and the erudite RVNG imprint has put together this collection of unreleased tracks that position Leimer as one of the few American artists who worked in the field of kosmiche at the time of the sub-genre's original peak.''

Three years ago, Douglas Mcgowan (the man behind last year’s resplendent new age compilation, I Am the Center) sent a parcel of strange records my way, including one from Seattle-based musician Marc Barreca which seemed to hover in between many genres: new age, industrial, soundtracks. Barreca's record was released on the obscure Palace of Lights imprint run by another musician operating in the mists of the Pacific Northwest, Kerry Leimer, who himself had self-released a handful of his own work.

Investigating Leimer’s albums—specifically, 1982’s Land of Look Behind and 1983’s *Imposed Order—*revealed a curious artist. While the pastoral synths might scan as those of a new age practitioner, the weird loops of bass and noise eddying throughout suggested someone with more avant-garde tendencies. And when the drums burst into those otherwise ambient pieces (Look Behind drew on field recordings made in Jamaica of nyabinghi drumming, while Order used drum machines), it complicated matters further. These albums are long out of print, so it makes sense that the erudite RVNG imprint—already responsible for reviving forgotten artists ranging from Harald Grosskopf to Franco Falsini—would claim Leimer as one of their own.

A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975-1983) posits K. Leimer as the American Eno, and while there are sonic ties back to the likes of Cluster, Faust, and Jon Hassell, Eno is the only predecessor that Leimer admits to, telling writer Dave Segal in the liner notes: “None gave me more of a push than Eno, specifically…No Pussyfooting. The attractor was the loops: the loop provided an instant structure.” The Eno fandom is obvious on one of the set’s rare vocal pieces, “Lonely Boy,” where Leimer laments being a composer watching tiny lights blinking at him. “I don’t know what to do/ With instruments and all these wires,” he intones, even nailing Eno’s dry British deadpan. Another song title is perhaps too on the nose: “Eno’s Aviary.”

Despite that namecheck, there is something distinctly punk coursing through this compilation of thirty previously unreleased tracks. The sleeve art of other Palace of Lights releases (which RVNG also plans on compiling later this year) are odd pencil drawings: heads morphing into home stereos, diagrams where fingers become entangled with bass strings. It suggests that strange time period after the Sex Pistols exploded overseas but before punk crossed the Atlantic and crystallized into hardcore. Much like other punks of that era who didn’t really want to shove a pin through their nose, Leimer was more than a trained musician who simply wanted to vent frustration and make some noise with tape loops.

One of the set's pleasures is that although Leimer doesn’t quite know what to do with the instruments on hand—primarily a Rickenbacker bass, a Mini Moog, Revox tape decks, and a handful of effects pedals—the results are entrancing. The drum machine beats feel primitive yet intuitive on pieces like “Entr’acte” and “Archie’s Dub”, which possess a strange layering of dub effects that bring to mind Eno’s collaboration with David Byrne on My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (Leimer’s band Savant would explore that polyrhythmic sound even further). For an album featuring so many dreamlike, drifting passages, it’s startling to look at the runtimes and realize that only four pieces ever top the 4:30 mark; beautiful ambient tracks like “Almost Chinese”, “At Daybreak”, and “Two Voices” take you much further afield than their concise runtimes suggest.

These pieces most closely evoke the work of Roedelius and Moebius in Cluster: meditative, wistful, lovely, giving off gentle glimmers of light. In trying to think of the closest American corollary for this set, the possibility emerges that Kerry Leimer is one of the lone examples of American kosmische music, that elegant hybrid that falls somewhere between the Velvets-styled mesmerism of Can in the early '70s and the placid tones of new age music that arose in the next decade. It’s a sound that applies to mid-70s Cluster, Ash Ra Tempel, Popol Vuh, the second side of Kraftwerk’s Autobahn, and others. Yet while import copies of such records no doubt made their way back to the States, it’s rare to find the American version of such a sound. There’s cosmic overtones to be found in jazz from that era (Miles Davis’ “He Loved Him Madly” in particular) as well as from more academic composers like Terry Riley and Laurie Spiegel, but for most bands and musicians of that decade, kosmische seems to have not been emulated. In experiencing this evocative set some three decades later, Leimer’s music sounds like the road not taken. -Andy Beta

K. Leimer by Alexis Georgopolous

"Ambient" music, found sound, and valuing process over product.

'Since the mid–1970s, electronic composer K. Leimer has produced a rich and vast body of work. It has often, if somewhat hastily, been referred to as ambient—that is, when it has been referred to at all. While some of his albums do exhibit certain tropes of that drifting, sometimes unnerving calm, the more comprehensive truth is more complicated, and more interesting, than that tag might imply.

Leimer's work is content to veer. If stillness is a recurrent theme in his work, so is agitated motion. One can certainly draw links to the golden mid–’70s of German Kosmische (Cluster, in particular), the more tuneful sides of This Heat and Throbbing Gristle, the “Fourth World” explorations of Jon Hassell, and the malfunctioning computer funk of Eno's collaborations with David Byrne as well as Fripp and Eno's tape loop experiments. In his systems–based pieces, a strange collision of sounds and influences hold free reign.

Based in Seattle, but inspired by what he heard coming from the UK and Germany, in the mid-’70s Leimer bought a Micromoog and a tape machine and set off. Geographically marooned, in a sense—such interests were very much off the grid in the pre–Grunge Pacific Northwest at the time—he and his peers created an infrastructure of independence, with Leimer establishing his own label, Palace of Lights, in 1979 and releasing small edition recordings, not to mention stockpiling a good many unreleased reels of tape.

A new collection of archival recordings, A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975-1983), curated and produced by Matt Werth for his label RVNG Intl, brings to light a rich, expansive, and time–specific body of work. As such, Leimer fits into a particular territory Werth seems to seek out: music that is clearly connected, in time and tone, to ’70s and ’80s Cosmic and Avant–Garde, but for one reason or other did not fit into the dominant paradigms of the time. Werth has also reissued music by Harald Grosskopf (of Manuel Göttsching's Ashra) and Franco Falsini (of Italian ensemble Sensations ' Fix). Werth first encountered Leimer’s work in The Land of Look Behind, Alan Greenberg's documentary about Bob Marley's funeral in Jamaica and that country's remote Cockpit Country. Leimer's score for the film locates an uncanny, eerie atmosphere, and stands out as a brilliant juxtaposition to the film's images—in that it occasionally calls to mind Popol Vuh's soundtracks for Werner Herzog's 70s films. Since 2003, Leimer has lived in Maui. He and his partner Dorothy grow olives and citrus for local restaurants. He continues to make music, working in his studio every day.'

Collaborative releases with Marc Barreca and Taylor Deupree are forthcoming, as is the RVNG Intl reissue of his Savant project.

Alexis Georgopoulos What are your earliest memories of music?

K. Leimer First was a square picture disc from the Hanseatic—a recording of the German ocean liner's triumphal theme song given out as a souvenir. After that, assembling a little cardboard guide to place on the keyboard of a Wurlitzer I took lessons on, converting musical notation to alphabetical equivalents so that I could more easily learn to play nineteenth century tunes like "Beautiful Dreamer" by rote. Then being pretty sure I was tone deaf since the sort of music I heard as a child made no sense of any kind to me. It was all kind of anti-music, really.

AG What led you towards the arts?

KL I began to spontaneously draw when I was about seven years old, without making a conscious choice. I grew up in what I’ll call a post-movement art world. The –isms were pretty well over with, so my exposure and interests were free of indoctrination. Add to that the social and political climate of the time, and the Dadaists and surrealists seemed still relevant to me. The work of Duchamp, of course, made a huge impression. I always felt fortunate that I didn’t have to choose an interest or career, that certain aspects of the arts simply seemed intrinsic to me and to my interactions in the world.

AG What about Duchamp—rather than contemporary visual artists of the time—clicked for you?

KL That his work ranges from the almost dismissively casual—like In Advance of the Broken Arm—to the ultra-detailed and documented works—like The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even—was unprecedented at the time. Form didn’t matter, traditions and technique were not even secondary. And the humor was remarkably dry.

AG You practiced automatic writing and painting initially, right?

KL Yes, the drawing lead to painting and writing seemed to be a part as well. There may still be a few copies around of some of the writing, but the paintings are long gone. Some appear in a few photos, but like music, I was never completely satisfied with the result. I'm very lazy about technique.

AG What kept satisfaction at bay in your music?

KL I’ve always lived with this particular strain of disappointment regarding finished work. The most accurate appraisal I can offer is that of familiarity: by the time something's determined to be complete, the level of familiarity with it can be crushing. So I always tilt toward the process more than the product—the product is almost always problematic in one way or another. It takes a long time to be able to come back to something and really see it or hear it correctly. The decades between recording the music on A Period of Review and hearing it again seemed just about the right interval.

AG What led you away from other art forms and towards music?

KL Music has always been a bit more elusive, slippery stuff. It was easier, at first: my naiveté accepted very rapid outcomes. I had and still have a love of machines—the recorders, amps, speakers, electronics. Wires not so much. But most of all, I found a strong personal preference for the ways in which sound and music can be perceived. I don’t watch music; typically videos place it in a mostly subordinate role, in my opinion. It might just be what Chris Cutler wrote—and I’m paraphrasing here—that music offers the ideal way to experience time. Of course, he’s a drummer.

AG Were you incorporating ideas you found exciting in writing and visual art into the field of music – was that the idea?

KL Absolutely. Transposing, using found objects (found sound), inversion, juxtaposition, layering, arbitrariness, dust collecting... These are all very applicable and offer immediacy while defeating typical expectations.

AG You've said that meeting Robert Carlberg [who records under the name Anode and was an early collaborator of Leimer’s] was instrumental in moving you towards music, yes?

KL At first I'd actually been recording with another friend, John Holt. He was an art student too, and we put together a pair of found sound mash-up albums called Grey Cows and I’d Rather Cadaver. The surviving track is a cover of "The Sad Skinhead" (originally by Faust) that’s still posted on some Faust cover site, probably due to Mr. Robert. I had known Robert first, but that friendship was initially based on reading and a shared political outrage. This might be a false memory here, but I seem to recall us both actually falling out of our seats with laughter during a showing of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. He introduced me to a lot of recordings and a lot of ideas and our tastes shared an extensive overlap, so we did end up recording together under the name Anode. But I am, at best, terrible to work with or around. That and our divergent interests—coarsely put, Happy the Man vs. Swell Maps—put us at odds in the studio in fairly short order. He still works under the Anode name and has produced an enormous volume of recordings that are far-ranging in approach and result. They’re pretty funny and always interesting. And we’re still friends.

AG Have you seen the documentary about Jodorowsky's DUNE? There's a certain influence of the Existential Void on tracks like "Acquiescence" and certainly "Malaise"—was science fiction an influence at all?

KL I never read Herbert. I was always put off by the “House This” and "House That” stuff. Swords in space and all. And I’m unfamiliar with the documentary, but perhaps not so unfamiliar with the void. The science fiction I read—I don’t read it any more—was primarily the work of Stanislaw Lem and Walter Tevis. I’d say Lem’s One Human Minute sums things up nicely—it was the basis for my Statistical Truth album, the title at least. But a sense of emptiness (not to be feared) is built-in for me. It’s a preferred state of mind, having been long suspicious of extended or elevated episodes of “happiness” (also the title of a great film).

AG You say in the liner notes to this compilation, on the subject of influence in your work, that “None gave me more of a push than Eno, specifically his first collaboration with Fripp—No Pussyfooting—and its ties to Terry Riley. While many people may have focused on Fripp’s improvisation, I was completely taken by what was underneath. The attractor was the loop: the loop provided an instant structure—a sort of fatalism. The participation of the tape machine in shaping and extending the music was a key to setting self-deterministic systems in motion and held a clear relationship to my interests in fine art: the found object, the impartiality of producing work and events ‘without preconceived object.’” This “fatalism” that you describe—what was it about that that appealed to you? The imposed limitations?

KL You’re collaborating with a system rather than an individual—a system that doesn't really react as much as simply repeat in the form of an extended decay. So you're dealing with the initial signal and then some manipulation of that signal, in real time. It results in a music that seems immediately comprehensible, more reliant on timbre and generally free of, let’s call it, ostentatious gesture. It’s not a music of distraction or necessarily a music to be sublimated. In my experience, it encourages a form of concentration that incorporates a lovely, entropic sensibility. It’s “fatalistic” in the sense that it is intellectually automatic and emotionally elegiac.

AG—Do these closed systems appeal to you because of their—to borrow the title of one of your albums—imposed order?

KL Yes. Automatic solutions, self-deterministic systems, sets of limitations, and artificial variation all place the focus on devising some rules of interaction. But Imposed Order referred to the way in which human perception generates qualia from unrelated phenomena: “Look! Jesus is on my toast!” So, through the juxtaposition of pitches, durations and timbres without traditional compositional influence, you acknowledge what is happening anyway: that the listener is making determinations about form and order. But I never quite took that far enough.

AG Many artists turn to creative endeavors to escape imposed order, no?

KL As defined above, I’m not sure escape is possible.

AG What was the music scene in Olympia and Seattle like at the time that you made this music?

KL There was OP Magazine and a few bands I found to be interesting—the Blackouts, Young Scientist, 3 Swimmers and The Wipers come to mind. I was listening to Wire quite a lot, too—what could have been better at that time than “Reuters”? Robert Carlberg had introduced me to Glass, a local prog outfit. Bruce Pavitt [co-founder of Sub Pop Records] showed up a few times, clearly unimpressed with the music Palace of Lights was pursuing. But through it I met [composer and Palace of Lights recording artist] Steve Peters, who I felt was doing some of the most beautiful and significant work then and now. And of course, Marc Barreca [with whom Leimer would collaborate with in the group Savant]. Those relationships have endured to my great honor and pleasure. The recordings put me in touch with others of like or related interest—Steve Fisk, Gregory Taylor, Michael William Gilbert, Roy Finch, Alan Greenberg, Dennis Rea. So, the scene as I knew it was not geographical, was small in number, particular, and generally uninterested and unable to connect with the locals that were aspiring to be commercially accepted.

AG How do mean "not geographical”?

KL I mean that there was no local movement. Gregory Taylor was in the Midwest, Michael William Gilbert on the East Coast, and Roy Finch was in New York at that time. And if you consider what Steve Peters pursues, or what Gregory Taylor or Marc Barreca pursue, there’s no particular shared aesthetic about it, except in the broadest sense. And, our records were purchased and reviewed pretty much anywhere but Seattle, a town, they say, that dislikes its own until they leave.

AG What led you to work with tape loops?

KL While I tell myself that the music I pursue now is generally emotionally neutral, I’m always personally drawn to sad music, to elegy. And I heard that quality in open loop works: the decay, the thinning and collapsing signals, the persistence of what came before. The machine presence is a nice detail, an acknowledgment of recording rather than an effort at concealment. As I said earlier, a combination of a somewhat automatic solution with decay seems to be something for which I had an overdeveloped receptivity.

AG What was it about the sort of Cage–ian notions of chance and self-generating musical systems that attracted you?

KL My sense—and it seems especially true in the commercial need for personality or celebrity to be an aspect of work—is that while the artist may now be considered to be the product, I don’t even consider the work as “product.” From that perspective, acquiring some impartiality is both interesting and healthy. And incorporating an arbitrariness helps you fool yourself. It’s never been idea-to-execution approach for me. It’s been: play, mistake, accident and surprise—heuristic out of necessity since mastery over the work strikes me as a false notion.

AG Do you mean that these strategies offer an antidote to a preconceived outcome? Can you elaborate on the statement that “mastery is a false notion?”

KL Heuristic in that there was no specified goal, and that music is always something of a lesson for me. Oblique Strategies played a key role during that time, so yes, an antidote for defining the initial idea too closely. And mastery seems unlikely, or at least unavailable, to me. Especially given my posture towards this sort of work. The definitions would need to be so codified and specific, so contextual, and the practice so arduous that the results would demand to be measured against some rather detailed creative brief. There are only a few ways the culture measures creative success, and the most prominent—I hope we can agree on this—have very little to do with any intrinsic value of the work itself. In my experience, it’s impossible to so fully codify and detail any undertaking that someone could not immediately respond, “Or, you could do it this way.”

AG RVNG will also be releasing material from Savant, your collaboration with Marc Barreca, Dennis Rea and others. How did you approach that material differently than your own work?

KL Yeah, I understand they’re planning on an early 2015 release date for the Savant catalog. The approach was not so different. Savant is meant to be a sort of exercise in artificial intelligence, separated areas of ability, expertise and understanding that meet only on a length of tape. The Savant tracks use musicians as sources, instead of machines. Musicians react in different ways to identical instructions and limitations. Through this trait the Savant tracks achieve a sort of artificiality that my “solo” work cannot. And while the process was so abhorrently odd, the results seem very familiar. And that’s problematic for many experimental musics: unless the listener makes a study of the process, the outcomes may often seem familiar even though they really shouldn’t. I don’t know how many people, on hearing “Stationary Dance”, find it to be sarcastic, which it obviously is. Yet I understand DJs still play it, and I guess that means people dance to it.

AG Savant’s record, The Neo-Realist (At Risk), seems to emphasize the dislocated “Fourth World” approach that appears in some of your solo work, i.e., "A Spiritual Life" and your soundtrack to The Land of Look Behind. It’s more of a fractured computer funk that evokes My Life In The Bush of Ghosts or Remain In Light.

KL It does share quite a lot with those recordings, and at the same time it began to take on a sort of belligerence, especially in the title track. I think that comes as close as anything I’ve been involved with to making a social statement, other than the implications of some titles. I still quite love that track, especially the way the percussion elements thrash around: a lot of cardboard boxes and plastic containers were used. But as a whole, rhythmic music is sort of a mystery to me. I don’t have a genuine feel for it, and that’s probably the dislocation you hear.

AG What inspired you to start your own label, Palace of Lights, in 1979, as opposed to releasing your work through other, established labels?

KL I don’t have a coherent answer for you about this, but there are a few things I can offer. Having known, and on occasion worked with, people who sought the attention of labels, I was neither encouraged nor impressed by the motives or requirements. My assumption, as a non-professional, was that the value in my work is intrinsically low. There was an emerging, and for several years, reliable independent distribution network, specifically Greenworld, NMDS and Rough Trade. We did everything else ourselves anyway. I didn’t want to perform.

AG In recent years, the term new age has been re-defined by many underground artists from something that was once looked down upon to something that is rich and expansive in possibility. How do you feel about tags like new age or ambient? Are there distinctions to be made between them?

KL I’m not aware of new age music beyond Enya-style prattling. The Burning Shed label comes to mind in this context, but only because I find the recordings too pretty as a whole. Or perhaps something like the work of Loscil, which strikes me as ultra-demure, or the releases by Stars of The Lid, which are somewhat two-dimensional. So maybe that’s the new new age?

More broadly, genre and form seem imposed after the fact, as an organizational or learning tool, which in turn becomes at least as destructive as it might claim to be useful. I don’t consider genre in anything I do, other than housekeeping.

AG One thing I find interesting is the way you, especially when incorporating rhythm, find yourself in a musical terrain that is much more ambiguous—ambiguous of form, and in a way, of the concept of genre.

KL It’s pretty obvious that I do not understand rhythm or how to use it. So, yes, it’s very ambiguous, and very good of you to notice. Since beats have been de rigeur for so long, I tended to treat them as a placebo, slipping a rhythm track under some loop or pattern that seemed interesting but unfulfilled and incomplete. Whenever I use rhythm, I’m cheating.

AG This collection certainly concentrates on music that is less deliberately ambient than many of your albums. Drum machines, rhythm boxes, and rhythm—in general—is much more prominent.

KL I’m very egalitarian in my listening, and when it comes to recording I tend to avoid those things that I know so many others to be so much better at than me. Given time and place, the influences on A Period of Review are completely naked. I was expressing my taste more than anything else: trying to illuminate my preferences by emulating work I admired through my own understanding and interests. I was thinking about records like Ralf and Florian, Zuckerzeit, and Metamatic and the primitivism that drove recordings like Alternative TV's Vibing Up the Senile Man (a long, long time favorite) and others, so the presence of the rhythm box is no surprise.

AG You even sing on the track "Lonely Boy"—which I love by the way. Did you ever consider making an album of "sung" songs?

KL Ha! Not. Even. Once.

AG Your score for the documentary The Land of Look Behind —a spellbinding, haunting film– reminds me, in a way, of Popol Vuh's scores for Werner Herzog films: drifting, shimmering tones that cast a spell on the viewer. How did you get involved in the film?

KL Alan Greenberg, then a protégé of Herzog’s, had come across a copy of Closed System Potentials and was taken enough to get in touch. He brought me down to Miami for a few days to look at some of the footage and talk about his ideas concerning a soundtrack. I only recall the words of one of his hangers-on: “The ocean has always been a powerful metaphor for me.” Alan used very little of the new material I wound up recording—which drew extensively from the location recordings. It was also a rush job, which hurt in a way because I had just begun work on a new album, which would have been Statistical Truth. The interruption completely derailed my schedule and by the time I got back to work on my own project the whole thing fell apart and became Imposed Order instead.

AG I also hear a bit of My Life In The Bush of Ghosts and Holger Czukay's Movies, both early examples of sample-based works, not to mention some of Jon Hassel's early ’80s work. How do you feel this music responded to the different cultures it was, in some sense, imagining from a distance?

KL Music is self-assimilating. Awareness and exposure continually reshape the possibilities, so I think you’re simply hearing what these artists had become aware of, most probably at a distance. My Life was prefigured in a number of ways, but the obvious onset occurs with "Kurt’s Rejoinder" from Eno’s Before and After Science. The tape speed manipulation of Hassel had many precedents as well: a favorite, and a technical marvel to this day, is Godley & Creme’s “I Pity Inanimate Objects” from Freeze Frame. The same techniques, very different outcomes. How genuine the cultural influences actually were is something I can’t speak to, though with Hassel it's obviously much more than an affectation. You can hear his influence carried to different conclusions now by Arve Henricksen. In my case, it’s only affectation.

AG People seem to need to bring up Eno as an influence in your work. You don't seem to have a problem with this. Do you see Eno, like Cage perhaps, as a philosophical pivot of sorts, someone who should be seen as a turning point?

KL That’s a pretty easy association to make, and flattering as well. Eno deftly distilled a number of exotic and established ideas into a popular format. The first two Roxy Music albums are incredibly complete and distinct works, more finished-seeming than Here Come the Warm Jets. But what really matters is that Eno did not persist solely as a pop/rock figure, but that he produced and released works by Gavin Bryars, Michael Nyman, David Toop and others. To me, this is very different and far more important than producing U2 or Coldplay records. Early on he’s very important to a great many things about music. I do struggle with some of the more recent pieces, but again, to his credit, he has continued to change his approach and his means.

AG In many ways, the music on this compilation conjures, not just Eno but also my favorite era of Cluster. It’s material that is often propelled by rhythm boxes more than the beatless work that you went on to make.

KL My assumption is that anything with beats is automatically more accessible to people, though why I cannot say. But you’re right: I was much more involved with Eno’s ideas than his music, and at that time, much more engaged in Cluster’s music. That the two met up at some point shows the shared aesthetic at work: rhythm boxes were a pretty automatic solution in their own right.

AG In 1983, you decided to put music aside. Were the reasons financial or did you feel like focusing your energies elsewhere?

KL It wasn’t financial. By that time our design office was taking on business at an alarming rate. We drew clients from around the U.S. and Canada and so I went with my education and training and put all my time and energy into design. Early on, the reinforcement loop was very seductive and really did not encourage the better aspects of my character. I didn’t consciously put music aside, but the time for it vanished into fulfilling the needs of others, and the experience of such a sustained ramble through commerce and the corporate world eventually confirmed my worst suspicions of that way of being and living. I couldn’t genuinely fit into the design world any more than I could fit into the music world, but because music was always in my mind, I finally found my way back to the studio. Looking for some sanity, my wife Dorothy and I set aside the business and I returned to the other “practice."

AG How did you come to work with Taylor Deupree?

KL Taylor is a remarkably talented and receptive person. I think I became aware of his work while reviewing for Darren Bergstein’s ei magazine. Darren mentioned that Taylor had a passing awareness of my recordings, so I felt brave enough to contact him for help. He mixed and mastered Degraded Certainties. We then went deeper with Permissions, which he did quite a lot of work on. It’s an important resource for someone like me, working mostly alone, to have a sympathetic and objective external resource act as an editor and critic on technical and creative issues.

AG You were quite prolific when you returned to music in the early 2000s. Did you feel newly invigorated?

KL Walking into the studio, pretty much every day now, feels as it always has: new and promising while remaining persistently problematic. After all these years, Marc Barreca and I finally completed a genuine collaborative album, Premap, and Greg Davis is mastering one I’ve just finished of my own work, The Grey Catalog. We’re going into manufacturing for Gregory Taylor’s collaboration with Darwin Grosse titled Tourbillon Solo. And I’m about halfway through another project that I hope to complete with Taylor Deupree’s help again. Then there’s the Savant project as well. So yes, very invigorating.

K. Leimer – A Period Of Review (Original Recordings 1975-1983)

Label: Rvng Intl. – ReRVNG03
Format: CD, Compilation
Country: US
Released: May 12, 2014
Genre: Electronic
Style: Ambient, Early, Experimental

1. Ceylon 2:51
2. My Timid Desires 3:56
3. From A Common Center 2:20
4. Explanation of Terms 0:17
5. From One To Ten 1:58
6. Entre'acte 3:08
7. Bump In The Night 0:16
8. (aka accident) 2:18
9. Facing East 2:10
10. At Daybreak 1:31
11. A Spiritual Life 3:16
12. Honey To Ashes 3:04
13. Stop It! 3:30
14. Two Voices 2:00
15. Lonely Boy 3:48
16. Practical Demonstration 0:52
17. Commercial 0:08
18. Gisella 3:14
19. Archie's Dub 3:32
20. Ikumi 2:12
21. Reassurances 1:00
22. Assemble and Diffuse 4:30
23. Eno's Aviary 2:00
24. Almost Chinese 2:04
25. Agfa Lupa 0:51
26. The Phonic Chasm (feat. Dawn Seago) 4:31
27. Acquiescence 5:06
28. Malaise 6:26
29. All Sad Days 2:34
30. Porcelain (feat. Nancy Estle) 2:11

All music written between 1975 and 1983.
Recorded at Tactical in Seattle, WA.
Mastered At Autumn Mastering (Burlington, VT).

Performed with: Hohner Pianet (Marc Barreca), Kawai Baby Grand Piano, Clavichord (Marc Barreca), Prophet (Marc Barreca), Kalimba, Les Paul (direct input), Memorymoog, Micromoog, Minimoog, Moog Taurus Pedals, Mu-Ton Bi-Phase, Oberheim DMX, Oberheim Module, Rickenbacker Bass (direct input), Rhythm box (make unknown), Various reverbs, stop boxes, and pedals

Recorded with: Advent 201 Cassette Deck, Crown PZM mics, JBL Monitors (godawful too), Lexicon PCM 41, MCI 8 track 1", Various EQs, TEAC 3340S Reel-To-Reel Recorder, TEAC Mixer, Soundworkshop Mixing Board, Studer 1/2" Track

Tracks 1, 30 from Translucent 1978 [not in the database yet]
Tracks 2, 3, 6, 9, 14, 17, 19, 20 from Installation View 1983. Track 20 is an early version of "The Human Condition" from Imposed Order.
Track 4 ca. 1978
Tracks 5, 8 from Savant 1979 [not in the database yet]
Track 10 from Natural History 1977 [not in the database yet]
Track 11 from Film Noir - American Style 1984
Track 13 unreleased 1977
Track 15 unreleased tape single 1978
Track 16 ca. 1978
Tracks 18, 23 from Eno's Aviary / Gisella 1976 [not in the database yet]
Track 21 date / source unknown
Track 22 from Palace Of Lights 1981
Track 24 from Art & Science 1976 [not in the database yet]
Track 25 from Fits & Starts 1976 [not in the database yet]
Track 26 from Details Of Lethargy 1976 [not in the database yet]
Track 28 from Memory 1978 [not in the database yet]
Track 29 date / source unknown

The CD tracklist on the rear of the sleeve mentions "The Difficult Crossing" as being track 4. This track is in fact not on the CD release and appears only on the vinyl version.