Clem Leek from Kent in the southeast of England is an ostensibly ambient composer who frankly invests too much emotion and melody in his music to be characterized as such. In less than two years since debuting as a recording artist, he has released an impressive amount of quality music and his international fan base is growing exponentially.
“Lifenotes”, according to his own notes, is composed of pieces new and old, all close to his heart. So close that he plays it close to the vest by offering us mostly barest-bone sketches. Having persued rich and dense soundscapes in his previous work, “Lifenotes” is equivalent of back-to-basics folk – suggestions of suggestive moods in the spirit of Brian Eno´s very short pieces collected on the various “Music for Films” albums. The improvised piano sittings are intimate – you can hear his feet shift on the pedals – as are the solo electric guitar meditations. State of the art electronics are employed but leave little discernable trace.
Opening appropriately with “Page One”, violinist Christoph Berg joins him to add a few deep strokes of the violin, but between that and his reappearance on “Closing (The End)”, the rest of the album is strictly a one-man show. Sixteen tracks scurry past in only thirty-five minutes. “My Little Boat” barely leaves the dock before it´s over. The rainfall almost drowning out “The Middle Part” is succeeded by an unseasonably warm “November 11th”, Remembrance Day, with a small choir of sparrows singing along with the piano and the drone which shadows it.
Leek´s “Lifenotes” are as pastoral as a Wordsworth poem but then again, so really are many of fellow southeasterner Eno´s short pieces. Some of the more richly textuted pieces are vaunted and expansive, others are reticent and lo-fi. He is finding his own voice among similarly-inclined, conservatory-trained young composers like Nils Frahm, Dustin O´Halloran and Max Richter, all of whom make refined but accessible music. It´s too well-manicured for folk, but still has too much dirt under its fingernails to be chamber music for the salon.