“I’ve decided that it would be nice not to juggle another person’s name,” says Jason Letkiewicz with a laugh, talking about The Reflecting Pool, his first release under his own name. Since the mid ‘00s, Letkiewicz has been making a wide variety of electronic music under a host of different names: Steve Summers, Alan Hurst, Malvoeaux, Rhythm Based Lovers, Death Commando, to name a few. Somehow, The Reflecting Pool doesn’t fit into any of them.
Though now a Chicago resident, Letkiewicz’s trajectory into electronic music began on the Eastern seaboard, where he spent most of his life. Letkiewicz grew up in Maryland, and was a central figure in the cities that brought labels like New York’s L.I.E.S. and Washington, D.C.’s Future Times to life. Letkiewicz makes early appearances on those labels. He recorded as Malvoeaux—a project influenced by French filter house—and as the deep house project Two Dogs In The House for the first two L.I.E.S. releases; his house project Rhythm Based Lovers was Future Times’ second release.
“When I began recording The Reflecting Pool, I thought it might be another Alan Hurst record,” Letkiewicz says, referring to his brooding, soundtrack-esque solo project which is indebted to composers like John Carpenter and Goblin. “Alan Hurst recordings always felt like my most personal material. The name Alan Hurst is a play on the name of the street I grew up on in Maryland—Allenhurst—so there is a deep connection to my childhood…that project was also the first time I played each part one at a time onto a multitrack recorder.” By the time he started working on The Reflecting Pool, the Alan Hurst name had been on the backburner for a while—the last releases Nzambi and Nzambi Remixes came out in 2012.
The Reflecting Pool also coincides with a new beginning in Letkiewicz’s life, which began when he moved to Chicago in 2016. After touching down in the Windy City, Letkiewicz was contacted to submit music for a multimedia project—he had flown from Maryland to Chicago with only a few pieces of gear, and with those limitations he began making what would become The Reflecting Pool, an album that, on some songs, shares the horror soundtrack pallet of Alan Hurst, but on others is ambient, organic—even experimental. “That whole record [uses] a hand-played Tempest [a drum machine] with some effect pedals,” Letkiewicz says. “I used a midi keyboard to play the Tempest as a synthesizer.”
The Reflecting Pool is an album driven by necessity. “That’s something I like—when you have no choices,” he says. “Now my whole studio is here and it’s overwhelming, but at that point, I couldn’t do anything. I sat at our old apartment with this table, set some stuff up, and played. It was cool, having a goal in mind helps.”
And unlike his work as Steve Summers, there was no programming, simply a process of layering one stem on top of the next in real time. As he says, “The feel of it and the timing is only as good as I am able to perform.”
For all of that, The Reflecting Pool doesn’t sound as though it lacks hardware—granted, Dave Smith’s Tempest, which was designed with Roger Linn, designer of MPC sampler and the LM-1, is an incredibly robust synth and drum machine that’s able to play sequences, samples, and drum patterns. It’s no surprise that Letkiewicz is able to produce organic, beatless, chiming pieces like “Afterimages,” more aggressive, noisy numbers like “Burning Off The Morning Fog,” and twisting synthwave songs like “Double Dream” or “Mind Awake Body Asleep” with this one piece of gear. The versatility of the machine can be heard on the title track, especially—despite its short length, it’s a standout song with undulating synth rhythms and a catchy, moody guitar.
“The inclusion of me playing guitar feels personal because it’s something I’ve rarely included on released material,” says Letkiewicz. “It has always been just something to unwind with at home.” And by and large, The Reflecting Pool is a meditative experience—even when pummeling beats come in, there’s a warmth to the recording—an organic feel. “I could have easily sequenced the drums,” he says, “but I think that something would have been lost.” That translates to the name of the project and record. The Reflecting Pool—something not unlike a mirror—casts back the image of its creator. It’s contemplative and profound, despite its limits.