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Eleh: "Location Momentum"

img  Tobias

As little kids, we would compete by inventing the cruelest way of torturing someone. I had made a pretty strong impression with the idea of sticking needles underneath a person's fingernails and then slowly turning them in various angles, something I'd actually read about in the newspaper. A friend of mine suggested dropping a man into a bathtub filled with leeches, a technique employed by the Vietcong. To our surprise, it was however an angelic-looking, curly-haired girl in a light-blue dress from around the block, who came up with the most gruesome, horrific and utterly nauseating suggestion: Slash the guy's eyelids off, tie him up and then expose his eyes to the burning sun in the middle of the desert. The idea of red-hot heat burning its way through someone's nerves impressed us a great deal and it made us shudder to think of how the sad subject of this terrifying treatment would never see anything in his whole life but a blazing corona of light as it indelibly imprinted itself on his retina. Feminist aspects of the story aside, I was reminded of this little episode after listening to „Location Momentum“, Eleh's first CD-length album-release after a string of micro-volume solo- and split-projects: For just like a visual artifact manifesting itself in your field of vision during a migraine attack some of these insanely intense pieces appear more like surreal sensory singularities than linear compositions.

It is this almost painful intensity, too, which makes the often-quoted trivia of Eleh moving away from the Vinyl-format here seem rather irrelevant. Even though it may, technically, still be possible to compress this music into MP3-files, listen to it on headphones or to spin it in the background while reading your emails, it will always seemed misplaced when not awarded your full attention. Where others regard music as a soundtrack to modern life, „Location Momentum“ is nothing but primeval resonance and undiluted sound, demanding to be appreciated with your eyes, ears and emotions and teasing your tongue like a dish of strong, mossy truffles. It is absolute like few other albums have been over the past few months, aware only of itself and almost confrontationally disinterested in seeming contemporary or up-to-date. Neither intended as a comment nor as „conceptual non-communication“, however, it returns to the roots of sound without the unpleasant aftertaste usually attached to analogue retro-exercises.

Musically, the action frequently borders the primitive. Rates of pulsation are modified, harmonic notes slowly added to a tonic, resting tones stretched and expanded into raw, chunky rhythms. Piercing, ultrasonic frequencies contrast with subsonic bass-radiation, suffocatingly dense time-suspending textures are juxtaposed with surgically-precise chunks of backwards-samples and again and again, movement dissolves into stasis while patterns grow from what seems to be a perfect sonic vacuum. Field recordings are notably absent from this collection, as are flashy software effects and familiar preset sounds which could provide even the slightest hint about the author's scene-associations or current production-aesthetics. Dynamics have been taken from the menu, as the first seconds of a track seem just as „complete“ as the last and development appears to move laterally according to a set of simple, yet mysterious rules. You close your eyes and drown in this sea of sound only to find that the twenty minutes of opener „HeleneleH“ have passed within an instant.

John Cage's 300-year-composition „Organ2“ comes to mind, the notion of replacing the forwards-logic of our world with an obsessive in-the-monentness in which new sonic events appear to rotate the music by a few degrees to the left or right as if it were a threedimensional object. Even when tones are added or subtracted, the result is not just merely a harmonic expansion, but more of a timbral refinement, like adding varnish to a surface to bring out its colours and textures in greater clarity. And yet, Eleh has decidedly taken on the challenge of moulding these five pieces into a coherent album-experience. With its radical transitions and stark digital bleeps, „Observation Wheel“, for example, comes as a much-needed counterweight to the monolithic fields of the aforementioned „HeleneleH“. And by reprising the futuristic figures of „Linear To Circular / Vertical Axis“ in the coda of concluding „Rotational Change For Windmill“, „Location Momentum“ comes full-circle in a deeply satisfying way in its final two minutes.

Admittedly, the physical pressure some of these waves are exerting on the  body when listened to at a high volume, can sometimes seem like a subtle form of torture. But strangely, rather than feeling terrifying or intimidating, it is a rather fascinating sensation on this account.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Eleh
Homepage: Touch

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