Eleh - "Madrid (excerpt)" (Homage to the Pointed Waveforms)
It’s not the mystery of who’s behind the moniker that draws people to Eleh. Whatever speculation circulates on the web, the elusive identity of Eleh has always struck me as something that’s more of a talking point for press releases or reviews than something that actually sells records. And Eleh’s records sell. This one, in fact, had already crossed the line into unavailability when this review was still a gleam in this writer’s eye. We can argue the point of writing about an album that you, fair reader, can no longer readily buy, but we Dusted writers tend to think that there’s more to these reviews than simply moving units, so let’s soldier on, shall we?
The third and final installment in a trio of albums on Taiga, Homage to the Pointed Waveforms finds Eleh wielding triangle and sawtooth tones with the usual degree of precision. Eleh can often be the minimal-est of contemporary minimalists, making some of the originals legends of less seem almost baroque in comparison. Homage to the Pointed Waveforms keeps the trend going, though it confounds the common supposition that minimalism is synonymous with drone: “Madrid,” which constitutes the album’s first side, is almost devoid of drone. Instead, it’s largely a series of repetitions and undulations, a well choreographed dance of washes and rhythms centered around a thudding pulse. When the gnarled gales of distortion come in toward the end, they’re rarely sustained, forced into intermittency just like the rest of the composition’s cast.
The platter’s second side contains two responses to “Madrid” and the lives shows across Europe in which the piece was developed. “Reflection 1” is a twilight landscape built around a bass tone that moves in and out like an ocean’s waves. “Reflection 2” is packed tighter, its oscillation more rapid and its handful of accompanying drones less disparate in their position across the canvas of the piece. The piece’s sudden changes in pitch are unexpected, small blips of surprise on an album that’s largely uneventful.
That last word isn’t meant as an insult. In fact, I think it’s Eleh’s uneventful nature that can make the music so hypnotizing. There are few flourishes or hooks of even the most rudimentary sort, and there are no richly woven tapestries of drone in which to lose oneself. Eleh is almost clinical, with music as unfussy as the titles of the albums on which it’s released. Homage to the Pointed Waveforms is cold and calculated, with no sense of dramatic ornament or emotional heft. The album’s only theatrics are in the enigmatic Eleh’s refusal to reveal who’s making the music, and that’s less interesting than even the record’s most boring bits.