Ken Leee, who have been working together for three years, met in the Styrian village of Aflenz and named themselves after Valentina Hasans one-of-a-kind interpretation of the Harry Nilsson song „Without You“. By releasing their debut album “Commodore” at the end of September 2015, they have put out a concise piece of Austrian Electro-Pop.
“We have very different influences and are actually casing out all possible directions in the studio”, describe singer/guitarist Roman Skomorowski and bassist/producer Martin Wirbel the adventurous production-ethos of the duo Ken Leee. An approach that takes time. For almost three years the two Styrians worked on the current album “Commodore”. This period saw multiple line-up changes as well as guest musicians, the scrapping of existing tracks, the reduction of arrangements, tweaking of beats and purging of their sound down to the bare essentials.
What arose was a catchy and precise amalgamation of Electro-Pop, Indie-harmonies and Hip-Hop titbits. Thus, on the eight songs on their debut album the New-Wave melancholy of Depeche Mode and Son Lux meets the radiant harmonies of Cmpny as well as the hypnotic-monotone rhythm structures of Hot Chip and Alt-J.
Congenially tricky – between poetry and dada
Commodore switches effortlessly back and forth between lyrical moments („Le Cômte“), dark sarcasm (“Join The Circus”) and the uncouth dada-irony of “Overload”, which appears to be a copious SEO manual for prospective porn-webpage programmers. However, the heart of the “Commodore” sound reveals itself on catchy electro-miniatures like “Found In Translation”, “Hangover” and “How The Mighty Fall”, when Skomorowski’s soulful-sinister timbre merges with Wirbel’s congenially dodgy melodic structures.
The approach: Playful yet sober
For all intents and purposes, producer Wirbel considers the title „Commodore“ to be quite programmatic: “When I was 13, I begged my parents to allow me to spend my savings on a Commodore 64. On the C 64 I then started to dabble and dip deep into electronic sound engineering. First cover-versions, quickly followed by my own compositions.” Nowadays Wirbel’s electronic tinkering is essential to the duo’s defining mainsprings and overall construction of sound. While singer Roman Skomorowski devises the arrangements, the harmonies and the lyrics, Wirbel optimizes the sounds. In unison, Ken Leee describe their soundphilosophy thusly, “For us, it’s important that our sound is transparent and doesn’t seem overloaded. Playful, yet sober.”
The songs are penned 50:50 by both musicians – with substantial lyrical assistance provided by the Austrian/Irish Rapper Retainer Hitokiri, who is featured on “Join The Circus” and “Sunny Side Up”. Additional guest-vocals are contributed by the Polish singer Kasia.
Niklas Jelinek – independent music journalist, Vienna