Hanno Leichtmann has the unique distinction of having recorded what could be considered the logical link between Aphex Twin's first two ambient collections. Combining the coarsely eccentric trance of James' Selected Ambient Works 85-92 with the comparatively low-key, almost nightmarish ambience of Selected Ambient Works Vol. 2, Leichtmann's first release under his own name, Nuit du Plomb, is an album of understated, filmic chillout music with moderately sinister overtones.
Spare and somewhat compact, Nuit du Plomb offers what fundamentally amounts to seven tracks (the first piece, "Anfang," and the eighth piece, "Abspann," are slightly different versions of the same track), ranging from glitchy, Pole-like minimalist house to more expansive and cinematic ambience. The opening and closing tracks are unquestionably the most melodic and memorable pieces on the album, featuring a melancholically seductive melody rendered vaguely off-kilter via Leichtmann's gentle pitch-shifts and subtle use of distortion. At the risk of belaboring the Aphex Twin comparisons, second track "Fenster" seems a near overt homage to Aphex Twin's "Bucephalus Bouncing Ball." "Wind" features a particularly progressive brand of soporific dub that juxtaposes extreme low-end bass tones with trebly digital "percussion" to intriguing effect. Post-industrial effects and otherworldly nuances permeate the sublime "Elvira," which is higher-order headphone music whose intensity demands the undivided attention of the listener. Elsewhere, Leichtmann employs eerie sci-fi soundscapes, as on "Keller" and the borderline-creepy "Reiter."
Too heterogeneous to be considered minimalism, yet utilizing an approach that exercises a reasonable enough measure of restraint in its own right, Nuit du Plomb suffers from an unwavering linearity of composition that allows these tracks to come off sounding like fragments stretched out to song length. Leichtmann's album was originally intended to be a soundtrack/companion piece to Hans Henny Jahnn's obscure novel The Night of Lead, and on that level, it succeeds. Nuit du Plomb is a moody and sumptuously produced record consisting of several atmospheric, fairly unobtrusive pieces, marred only by the sheer fact of it being mildly anemic and, unfortunately, less than memorable.