Premiere: Len Leise – Pretending

Balearic has become one of those well-(even over-)used musical terms that can be encompassing and restrictive in equal measure. Just ask Len Leise, lauded for a flurry of first releases on International Feel, Aficionado and his own white label, that traverse the balearic spectrum from ambient to dubby, with organic percussion and African influences. But what if that pigeonholing doesn’t satisfy and he wants to go all Monty Python and try something completely different?

When he sent us over his new release, Ing, it took a bit of getting used to. The six tracks, self-released on his new General Purpose label with Salvador, fully embrace dub, from the steppas energy of ‘Rocking’ and ‘Stepping’ to the psychedelic leanings of ‘Swimming’ and the post-punk feel of ‘Stopping’. Our Premiere today combines all those elements, as if Talking Heads went out to Joshua Tree to lay down a session that end up on the Public Possession catalogue. Certainly not what we’re used to from the Melbourne producer, but don’t let that be a reason to turn your back. As Len points out in the interview below, his fellow countryman András is another who keeps us guessing from release to release, and the more we can witness this level of diversification, the richer our listening days will be.

Ing is out 12th September and available to pre-order from Deejay. Len answers a few questions below about this new direction.

A little chat with Len…

This is a very different Len Leise to what we’re used to. Admittedly it took us a few listens to get used to it, but now we’re fully into it. To any fans coming to this for the first time, who might not take to this new sound instantly, do you have any words of reassurance?

The people who have heard this record so far seem to fall into 3 categories:

  1. Those that think it sounds like a natural progression of my sound, that it’s still identifiably me, my sound just with some other influences going on.
  2. Those who think it’s quite a departure, but don’t care as they really dig the vibe.
  3. Those that think it’s too different and can’t make the connection to my previous music.

I find it interesting how dub can be so divisive. Here’s where I stand: I’m interested in always developing and growing as a producer, never sticking to one format or sound I’m interested in self expression through different avenues. That being said, I feel like whatever I make will inevitably have some of that organic percussion or balearic quality to it. I guess that’s just a part of my personality and feels true. But, to me, that could be ambient one minute and dub the next, industrial music tomorrow or house music next week. Who knows, who cares? Good music is good music regardless, we don’t need to put everything in a box.

Take András for a minute, currently one of Australia’s most prolific producers, making amazing house music one second, lo-fi oddball ambient stuff the next and pop music other times. Incredible stuff, all quality music, all very different, but it doesn’t matter because it’s all great music. Right?

I’ve had people who have collected all my previous music tell me “this is your best record to date” and I’ve had people I admire tell me “it’s too trad or not what they think I should be creating”. I’d rather stop making music altogether than recreate the same ideas I’ve had before.
I’d say that you provided the very reassurance in your question. “took us a few listens to get used to it, but now we’re fully into it.”

Why did you choose this sound and collection of tracks to be the lift-off point for your new label?

I sent the demos out to some friends and peers and was overwhelmed by the majority of great feedback. I knew it wouldn’t be an easy sell for another label. I really believe in the record so I thought I’d put it out myself. Salvador and I have always talked about putting music out, so when he heard it he was like, “This is sick, we should put it out” and General Purpose was born.

Honestly I couldn’t have imagined any other label putting it out. Gone are the days when labels would stick with an artist through an experimental patch or believe in their intention enough to support it financially, whether they think it’ll sell lots of records or not. It’s a small scene, no-one makes any money so the risks are high. Totally understandable. So therefore it makes more sense for us to take the control into our own hands and do it how we’ve always wanted it done. Work with the engineers and the distributors we want, the designers, photographers and artist we want. Shape the whole package not just the music.

What were some of the musical reference points and personal experiences that inspired Ing?

When I made a dub mix for the single ‘oCaminho’ from my Lingua Franca mini LP is when I started introducing some dub elements into my production and I loved the results. I’ve always loved dub-tinged music, especially the more post punk and experimental side. Ing is inspired by Artists like Scientist and the crazy work he’d do on the mixing desk. Others like Jah Shaka, Savant, Adrian Sherwood, The Igniters and Andromeda were all on heavy rotation throughout Ing’s creation.

Seeing as we’re premiering it now, could you tell us a little more about ‘Pretending’?

It’s Australian inspired post-punk with a dub edge. ‘Pretending’ just sort of happened. I guess some comparative influences would be The Igniters crossed with Ströer Duo or Peter Westheimer or even a touch of Nick Cave. One friend who’s taste I respect greatly said “it’s like the Australian Crawl meets The Pop Group” haha I’ll take that! I also wanted to challenge myself and write in a way I hadn’t before. ‘Pretending’ is written in 3/4, B Flat Minor which honestly I found very difficult. I had my friend Andy Jenkins come over help with some of the guitar skanks and licks and I wrote some lyrics in a repetitive style. I wanted the track to evoke the barren repetitive nature of the Australian desert. I liked writing lyrics and using my voice. I hope to incorporate it into future productions as well.

What’s coming up for Len Leise and General Purpose in the coming months?

Salvador and I are working on a percussive dancefloor orientated record together, which is pretty weird / fun. We’ll release that next on GP, after that, who knows! We don’t want to pigeonhole the label, we’ll release this dub record, the percussive dance one then jazz or an industrial band, we don’t have any rules. We are happy to just take our time. There’s no exclusivity to GP either nor any rush, neither of us are taking it too seriously.

But to promote this record and General Purpose we are touring Europe starting September 14, playing across 9 cities so there is a good chance of seeing us throughout September and October ☺

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