I'm sure another will come to me eventually, but at the moment, I'm struggling to think of another young American producer who has proven as consistently compelling as Queens-via-Kansas resident Brian Leeds. Whether you know him as Royal Crown Of Sweden, Pendant, or, most likely Huerco S., Leeds first popped up on my radar back in 2012 via the jaw-droppingly gorgeous four-tracker Untitled for the Opal Tapes imprint, later given a vinyl pressing via Boomkat (which has just got repressed so I am very stoked to get a record I've been trying to own a physical copy of for six years). Comprised of three heady dance tracks on the A and one epic Gas-fueled ambient techno epic on the flip, Untitled set a near-impossible early career benchmark for the producer who has been steadily releasing twelves and albums ever since with a degree of quality control rarely found in many of his peers' output.
Truly the triple threat, in addition to being both an ace producer and DJ, he's also a stellar remixer. I reviewed his remix EP for the Giegling label back in 2016 where I marveled at his ability to take Olin's truly uninspiring source material and craft two lush and distinct remixes. And just recently, I was exposed to his ace 2014 remix for Lobster Theremin's Rawaat, a bassline masterclass. However, as well-regarded as his more dancefloor-ready material is and while 2013's Colonial Patterns showcased his ability to move effortlessly between beats and space, it was his 2016 ambient album for Probito that started to change the perception of him as another Brooklyn techno denizen to one of the best electronic exports this country currently offers. For Those Of You Who Have Never (And Also Those Who Have) is an album that has probably been hyped past its actual quality remit, but it still remains one of the more impactful contemporary ambient records to come out this decade as Leeds channeled his love for ambient techno stalwarts like zurkonic fave Dettinger to create windingly soporific compositions that approximate the lucid dreaming state pretty damn well. Leeds followed up that effort this past January with the new alias of Pendant, his new label West Mineral Ltd., and a new album to boot, the gaseous ambient of Make Me Know You Sweet.
Admittedly, listening to the samples, I wasn't particularly moved to buy that record, though the year is still young. And perhaps it is the contrarian in me that tends to recoil whenever an artist I enjoy reaches a certain threshold of popularity, but regardless, I seemed to have lost interest in keeping up with Leeds' output as I seemingly forgot that a friend told me of his upcoming twelve under his new Loidis alias at the start of this past month. So when I rolled up to my go-to record shop of 2 Bridges last week, I was instantly struck by the sounds emanating from the store's turntables. Another customer inquired about the album and for whatever reason, I thought it was the product of a Japanese experimental vocal artist. Excited at the prospect of discovering a new artist who was apparently an ambient techno doyen, I soon took the record over to the listening station where it took about .52 seconds to decide I was purchasing this beautiful beast.
"So, that Huerco is something else, eh?" inquired the storeowner.
"Oh, you didn't know that was Huerco S?" (laughs) "Well, guess it passed the blind taste test!"
Truer words. As I've talked about before, I firmly believe that being a music fan is a great way to learn how to appreciate being wrong. I can't count the number of times I've dismissed an artist for less than substantial reasons only to find myself asking a DJ or friend for a track ID and finding that (insert artist here) is actually pretty damn good. We're all victims of hype these days and the music news cycle is brutal as it shoves new artists with unrealistic expectations attached to them down our throats so that our only obvious means of recourse is to either bye the hype or dismiss it as such, potentially ignoring music that's worth your time in the process. I know I wouldn't have bothered even listening to this new Huerco record if I didn't have a store I trusted to go to and consistently find new music to get excited about. All of which is to say, if you're reliant almost solely on the internet for discovering new music, then I hope you have a wide purview as it seems easier and easier to get stuck in one's own cul de sac of taste.
Released on the newish anno imprint, Loidis is a brand new alias for the producer and a rather clever one as it sounds like the type of 90s ambient techno act you'd find on the Apollo label, but actually is the original way the city of Leeds (with which the producer shares a last name) was written at the start of the last millennium. Continuing his penchant for haiku-length titles, A Parade, In The Place I Sit, The Floating World (& All Its Pleasures) features three extended 4x4 walkabouts that refamiliarize those listeners who first fell in love with Leeds' music at the start of the decade with the kind of bucolic and expertly-assembled dance music that's been missing from his release schedule the past year and change. The cheerfully-titled "A Parade" is reinforced by the music itself, which rides a central truncated keyboard hook that evokes the type of microhouse proffered by Isolée and Luomo in the late nineties, but with a decidedly analog feel. A tightly cloistered set of chords skip across the brisk house beat, building momentum until the track's energetic topline see-saws around the upper register. Subtle reinforcements come in the way of a busy supporting mid-line and a billowing set of pads, but ultimately, the track feels like something of a playful palette cleanser to get the listener set on Huerco's unique sense of time.
Things start to heat up in earnest on A2 track "In The Place I Sit" as an extended spiritual jazz-indebted intro sets the vibe. A certain jazziness seems to be one of the defining qualities to this collection of tracks housed under Leeds' Loidis alias, but in this case, we're talking about jazzy in more of an early Prescription Records sort of way, what Ron Trent describes as taking the "perspective of being inside the sound versus creating the sound — or, creating the sound while being inside of it." Sure, there's a certain free quality to the playing that suggests the pieces here were not written using a grid, but what Leeds seems to be seeking to achieve is a type of musicality that's focused on the sounds themselves rather than how they are played. Arrangement has always been a particular strength of the producer and over the extended intro of "In The Place I Sit," he digitally pulses one set of pads while teasing a horn part and the other elements that soon bloom once the silken kick gets it all going, bringing it all to fruition.
Clocking in at a solid fifteen minutes, B-side "The Floating World (& All Its Pleasures)" is where the record gets taken to a place listeners rarely get taken to these days. Opening up on what sounds like a delayed striking of guitar strings and the rhythm that emerges from doing so, it creates a distinctively laid-back quality to the track while adding a solid bit of drag to the beat that leads to a bit of time dilation once things pass the five-minute mark. A recurring squiggle of a melody that calls to mind the topline of the A1 repeatedly inserts itself into the mix while hanging back, letting the rhythmic-melodic hook of the opening sample serve as the primary source of propulsion. With nary a chord progression in place, the producer sets about chasing a number of ideas over the next quarter-hour, from a subdued keys solo to brief motifs and textured brush strokes.
Ultimately, Leeds has succeeded at doing what he does best here, and that's creating a stunningly beautiful and simple piece of music rendered near indescribable by his singular sensibility. From the pacing to the sound design, not a single thing feels out of place or extraneous, each piece a plane of pure possibility realized to its fullest extent.