Lee van Dowski
Lee Van Dowski: The very name exudes style and intrigue—a country lord, perhaps, who at night throws open the manor gates to host all-night bacchanals legendary for their wine and song.
And though the French-born, Geneva-based artist may not have a manor to his name, the rest isn't far off the mark. Born Renaud Lewandowski, Lee has earned a reputation as a kind of dark prince of uplifting electronic music—a trickster who spreads his mischief via long, undulating DJ sets and bewilderingly epic releases.
No surprise to learn that Lee's roots go deep. His musical prehistory may be similar to many of his generation: raised on rock and hip-hop, complete with the obligatory attempt to learn to play guitar followed by short-lived bands with schoolmates. But Lee was the beneficiary of his stepfather's eclectic musical tastes, which spanned classical, jazz, funk, rock and even musique concrete and academic electronic music. "I was fascinated by the metallic sleeves and their geometrical designs," he remembers, suggesting a possible source for the shimmering timbres and clever vectors of his own music.
The pieces first fell together in 1993, when a friend invited Lee to attend a rave in southern France, near where he lived. "That was the shock of my life," says Lee, echoing a sentiment that will be familiar to many. "That was what I was looking for, without really knowing it—thousands of people dancing and sweating in the open air. An amazing soundsystem. And this never-ending kick that drives you to madness… Since that day, I've devoted my life entirely to being a part of this."
Lee got involved with the infamous Dragon Bal raves, where Miss Kittin got her start; he worked mundane jobs, saved money, bought decks and a mixer and taught himself to spin.His ambitions took Lee to Geneva, where he earned a degree in music engineering, but it may have been his next job, working in a Lausanne music shop, that really signalled his entry into the world of electronic music.
He took advantage of his employee discount to build out his studio, and just as importantly, the shop served as a focal point for all the area's musicians. It was here that Lee would meet both Quenum and Luciano—and from there, as they say, the rest is history…
We stand as obedient soldiers if we talk about some of his most recent releases. His terrific remixes for example of the legendary “By the Kiss" by M83, euphoric sounding Pig&Dan’s “The Saint” (Elevate) or Dave Seaman’s “Nightfalls” (Selador), an absolute top seller on Beatport.
And of course do not forget at all his most recent LP to date: “Cerca Trova” via Mobilee, where Lee gave the dancefloor a time-out for the contemporary IDM. “This experimental/ambient session finds a precious heart hidden within twisted metal and frazzled circuitry, crunching machinery together and finding the beauty within, or at the very least, placating the beast he puts in charge” attested Matt Oliver on his CLASH album review. The 14-track longplayer sees the artist hark back to his nascent rave years when Autechre, Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada ruled the stereo. From ambient techno to breaks, electro and acid, the work is ambitious, inspired and like all the best musical experiences – ultimately surprising.
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