It is fitting that the cover of Location Momentum is a murky, violet-hued image of billowing cloth, the inner photo a view through a gauzy, lace curtain, for the identity of the artist known as Eleh is deliberately shrouded in mystery. In recent years Eleh has emerged as one of the more enigmatic figures in abstract electronic and drone music, and a remarkably prolific one at that. Location Momentum is Eleh’s 12th release since 2006, but you can be forgiven if you missed out on the previous 11, since they were issued in very limited, vinyl-only editions. Their scarcity, along with the almost monastic single-mindedness of the music itself, only adds to the mystique.
I must admit finding the secrecy and air of intrigue around Eleh’s identity — as well as the occasional hyperbole-laced reviews that have greeted his recent releases — a little off-putting, but his music is another matter. More often than not, it’s wonderful. Though he’s only been releasing records for a little over four years, Eleh apparently began experimenting with analog synthesizer drones in 1999, inspired, it would seem, by the mesmerizing, overtone rich pieces favored by the likes of French synthesist Eliane Radigue, and American minimalist Alvin Lucier. His own work, such as Homage to the Square Wave, was as rigorously simple in method and execution, as it was breathtaking to hear. Using an unknown vintage, analog synthesizer, Eleh generated a series of drones that were then layered and mixed to create subtle, quavering harmonic shifts. Compositions tended to unfold at a fascinatingly measured pace.
Location Momentum is Eleh’s first release on CD and it is his most powerful and refined work to date. Though he continues along the same path of exploration, he adds new layers of complexity and detail to the mix. The opening piece, a 20-minute drone called "Heleneleh," is Eleh at his most austere. It evolves through a gentle process of addition, as tones overlap and pulse at varying frequencies to create an otherworldly shivering drone. It’s quite captivating. Much of the time, Eleh is less benignly meditative. “Circle One” is propelled by an anxious, insistent thrum that takes a lifetime to subside, at last giving way to an extended exhalation of white noise. The most singularly hypnotic piece is “Observation Wheel” with its tidal rhythm, punctuated by cicada-like chirps and gentle releases of static.
But listening to Eleh is never a soothing, immersive experience and he is at his disconcerting best with the album’s closer, “Rotational Change for Windmill,” with its unnerving stops and starts, eventually shuddering and lurching to a halt.