Foxy Digitalis (US)
This is an album conceptually dedicated to the most “heroic” plane crash in recent memory – the US Airways plane that was successfully landed in the Hudson River in 2009, saving all aboard. The juxtaposition is bizarre – “warm, deep” synth pads, minor-key progressions, and modernist ambience, along with infrequent samples of onboard safety announcements. It’s as if Leonhard wants to remind everyone that they’re not safe, while at the same time soothing them as much as possible. It’s a confusing impulse, borne out of dark personal trauma or just conceptual adventure, hard to tell. “Clear Air Turbulence” is the first of many tracks to feature a vintage Kraftwerk-esque pad, hinting that there’s more ironic distance than anything else. It suggests 1549 as an update on Kraftwerk’s classic concept albums: about radioactivity, trans-Europe train travel, the Autobahn, the Tour de France, computers, and the like. As with those pieces, if one sees Leonhard’s song titles and samples as cold factual observations, then the CD’s weird tension between lightness and dark makes the most sense.
Norman Records (DE)
Remember when that plane went down in the Hudson river a few years ago? It was a pretty crazy story, firstly that a little bird could bring down and enormous plane and secondly the pilot somehow managed to land the thing in a stretch of water. The plane basically swam to safety. Anyway the reason I mention all this is that this album is named after that plane. It’s a good angle and one that really makes sense of the music; warm, throbbing electronic melancholy. It reminds me of Nautilus, Metamatics or any of those tuneful electronic outfits I was into about a decade ago. All synthetic, this is music for airports in the truest sense of the phrase with snatches of dialogue sounding like announcements whilst the music has a threatening quality, murk under the surface as if in the opening scenes of a disaster movie before something terrible happens.
A warm ambient album with deep pads and minimal sound effects.
**Supple digital dub music, rich with blooming pads and produced with clinical attention to detail** "Following numerous digital releases during the past, Lars Leonhard's full length debut album "1549" will be released on BineMusic on Nov 7th 2011. Its name derives from US Airways Flight 1549 which was ditched in the Hudson River after a bird strike about three minutes into the flight in January 2009. The overall theme runs like a common thread through the album, with Leonhard mostly working with warm, deep pads and minimal sound effects. And as nature sets the agenda, hammering basses are obviously absent from this release."
Vital Weekly (NL)
After an afternoon and an evening of Main, Zoviet*France and Lustmord, I have time to think a few things over. About ambient music, about live music, and meanwhile I play this CD by a guy I never heard of, Lars Leonhard. Obviously I don't use the same volume at home as they do in concerts, but somehow I play this a bit louder. Maybe I am getting deaf, or maybe I want to repeat last night's concert experience? The ambient music that is part of Leonhard's world is a somewhat different than that of Main, Zoviet*France and Lustmord, although there was a time when Zoviet*France played this kind of music too: ambient house. Lots of synthesizers, clicky, glitchy dance rhythms and field recordings from airports. The title of this release comes from US Airways Flight 1549 which crashed into the Hudson river in 2009. Leonhard studied his history quite closely. This CD could have been as easily released by Silent Records in 1996 at the peak of ambient house, when Silent was one of the best labels in that field with a more experimental edge than many of the more well-known ones. Leonhard's music bounces among the arpeggio's, with the rhythm ticking away nicely, elements from dub thrown in here and there (in the use of delay, rather than with a thumping bass) and throughout a most enjoyable release. Like I said: the next return will that be of ambient house: once we are all fed up with cosmic music and need a bit of more rhythm we will be chilling out again. Bine Music taps in right on time. (FdW)
After drawing attention with his atmospheric yet clubby track "Citylights" on the BineMusic sampler in 2010, Düsseldorf sound tinkerer Lars Leonhard follows it with his debut album on the same Essen-based label. Low-key soundscapes dominate "1549" while the beats stay in the background, giving way to pads and spherical sounds. The album's title is a reminiscence of US Airways' flight 1549 which was ditched after being disabled by striking a flock of geese, as retold by the tracks on the album. A nice album that makes you crave for more releases.
The title of Lars Leonhard's debut album comes from the flight number of a US Airways plane that was forced into an emergency landing in the Hudson River, on account of striking a flock of Canadian geese shortly after take-off (my nation’s second most annoying weapon!). What an odd thing to center an entire LP around. A track dedicated to the event, sure – French electro-pop chap College, for instance, has done the deed. Maybe even a lengthy composition in a prog-rocky fashion could have been attempted, but any more than that seems like excess. Odder still is there's very little on here that implicitly sounds like the incident is a source of inspiration. A couple tracks have Airline Announcement samples, and all the titles tell the story, though in such a vague manner, they wouldn't look out of place in different track lists either (eg. Altitude Error, Long Range Cruise).
Nay, 1549 comes across as a standard dub techno album with elements of downtempo glitch and upbeat psy chill. It's the sort of sound that's caught Ultimae's attention in recent years, which led to ol' Lars featuring on the label's compilations – and why I decided to check into his discography further, 'natch. Mr. Leonhard got his start on BineMusic though, a German label that's released sporadic ambient and experimental material over the last decade. Move D and Scanner are recognizable names I can drop that have found homes there, but I know little else about the label. And by me, I mean what Lord Discogs tells me.
Okay, enough back-history – how's 1549 itself? Yeah, it's a good album, with a strong narrative in spite of not actually exploring a supposed storyline much. That said, some tracks do sound like they were written as though intended for scores, especially so Fly By Wire, which builds with a cinematic flourish benefiting a Nolan flick. It does sell the notion Lars was inspired by a significant event, though the music could work as a score to any scenario where there's rising tension, climax, and all that good literary stuff.
Besides, these tracks work well as standalone pieces of music too. You have gray-screened ambient dub (Decision Height, Long Range Cruise), minimalist ambient-techno glitch (Clear Air Turbulence, Electromagnetic Pulse), groovy house vibes on the tech-dub tip (Altitude Error, Glideslope, Total Pressure), and psy-dub leaning cuts with a brisk pace (True Heading, 564 Miles Per Hour) – have I said ‘dub’ enough yet? It’s all classy, smartly produced, and earwormy enough that you look forward to another play-through, but don’t mind letting it linger for a few weeks either.
Yeah, that’s about my main quibble with 1549: its absolute perfunctory nature as a dub techno album. I wasn’t surprised by much, beyond discovering an intended narrative that didn’t quite translate into actual music; nor am I inclined to dig into Mr. Leonhard’s discography further anytime soon. Still, for a first LP, it’s about as solid an effort in this genre as you’re likely to find.