K. Leimer / RVNG. Intl
  • K. Leimer / RVNG Intl.
The US is filled with independent recording artists, but there are only so many who create their own scenes and release their own albums, like Portland's garage grandfather Fred Cole* (Dead Moon, Pierced Arrows), who even presses his own LPs on a privately owned lathe.

At the height of his production powers in the 1970s and '80s, Seattle-based ambient artist Kerry Leimer was on a completely different musical wavelength, but he did something similar with the self-taught music he made, the label he founded, and the artists he championed.

On May 13, New York label RVNG Intl. releases a 30-track collection of Leimer's unreleased work, A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975–1983), so now a wider audience can experience what fans have been enjoying for years.

Born in Winnipeg, Canada, Leimer moved to Seattle in 1967. Inspired by the motorik and ambient music flowing from Europe, particularly Cluster's II and Robert Fripp and Brian Eno's No Pussyfooting, Leimer taught himself to create sound and to generate loops by way of the Micromoog and TEAC multi-track tape machines. In 1979, he founded Palace of Lights Records with his wife, Dorothy Cross.

* Cole underwent heart surgery on Wednesday. Here's hoping he's rocking again in short order.

Non-collection track from the era under consideration.

I'm sure it's entirely coincidental, but the first thought that came to mind while playing the new collection: Leimer anticipated Angelo Badalementi's score for Twin Peaks, which also had roots in the Northwest (and creator David Lynch, who moonlights as a musician, spent part of his childhood in Spokane). But that was just the set opener, "Ceylon." Nonetheless, when writers toss around the phrase "Seattle Sound," they don't usually mean instrumental music, like the work of producer Steve Fisk, whose name occurs a couple of times in the video below.

I found the other tracks just as easy to enjoy but harder to classify, though I flashed on Tangerine Dream at one point, possibly because I recently caught up with William Friedkin's rain-soaked Wages of Fear adaptation Sorcerer, for which they provided the eerie score, though there's nothing especially eerie about Leimer's music, which ranges from quiet and contemplative to invigorating and propulsive. He had the skills to follow that path, and he did score 1982's Land of Look Behind, but it never became a priority in his life. Still, critics seem likely to describe his work as "cinematic." It's a bit of a cliché, but if the cliché fits...

To my surprise, A Period of Review also includes a vocal track, "Lonely Boy," and it fits right in, while adding a welcome synth-pop note to the proceedings (vocally, he sounds like a cross between Gary Numan and Bill Nelson). Then again, that describes the still-active Leimer's entire output: a very welcome surprise.

RVNG Intl. releases A Period of Review (Original Recordings: 1975–1983) on May 13 with liner notes by The Stranger's own Dave Segal. It's the third entry in an archival series that includes Sensations' Fix's Music Is Painting in the Air.