TO:114V ELEH – “Living Space”

Vinyl Release date: 28th February 2020
CD Release date: 11th October 2019

DLP/CD – 5 tracks – 64 minutes

Track listing:

1. Living Space
2. Lo, Fr Ega
3. Collect Yourself/Well Arranged
4. Overt Too
5. Lighter Touch

Following ‘Slow Fade for Hard Sync’ (2009) and Location Momentum (2010), Living Space is Eleh’s third physical release for Touch. Seven years in the making, this new release consolidates the artist’s parallel narrative between a series of vinyl and CD releases for Important Records – where the emphasis is on a minimalist aesthetic – to a visual counterpoint that hints at the cinematic and painterly qualities of the music.

Sound, as a healing force, is an idea as old as the medium itself.  Inspired by the legacy and above all the spirit of John Coltrane, Living Space features 5 new compositions that seek to express the beauty of slow change, not only through the microtonal shifts in sound that Eleh navigates but moving with the atmospheric and shape–shifting conditions that the music creates as it interacts with the listening space, whether bedroom or concert hall, each one of them unique.

If the ambition of Living Space is to reflect both personal and collective growth cycles, the experience of its audition has the effect of stopping time. Melodic and harmonic progressions are implied and not stated obviously, to enable listeners to apply their own emotions and feelings to the music.

Using modular and analogue synthesisers, piano, organ, bass and symphonic chimes, Living Space stresses the promise of the CD’s final track – ‘Lighter Touch’ – forsaking the forceful hand for an approach that mirrors the slower and softer exposures of plant life and leaf formations, slow moving waters, not flash floods nor forest fires.

In counterpoint to the music, the 64 minute album is presented with a gatefold sleeve with Jon Wozencroft’s water photography extending the meditational pull of these new compositions. The Touch bandcamp page, which will be up later in the month, presents a fuller documentation of this photo–shoot (from Crete, 2018), with a 20pp PDF free for download.

For those for whom Eleh needs no introduction, see if you agree. Anyone who has yet to experience the artist’s sonic alchemy, Living Space is the perfect starting point.

Reviews:

Toneshift (USA):

Housed in a gorgeous jewel of square packaging that opens to various aquatic shades, this is the latest from Eleh with his first new output on Touch in nine years, though his work has been represented by other fine labels (Important, Line…) over the course of the intervening years. And for good reason, the sound is indicative of how advanced and central tone itself has become to his work in the past dozen plus years, coursing through this with considerable fluid nuance.

The tonal bent and assorted reverb has a narcotic effect, not unlike going into a dreamstate under the scope of anaesthesia or a strange drug trip. This is subtly massaged into the barrier of unconsciousness on the incredible Collect Yourself/Well Arranged. If one were to try and take apart it’s title as a construct, the ‘living space’ inferred here could be supplanted for that of an inward stare at the human body as a host in and of itself. The pulsations used here easily auscultate to those electric signals of internal organs resembling sci-fi transmissions on the surface.

His oscillations, gentle over these passages, elongate and compress over time, like blood pressure and heartbeat (as well as a futuristic pressure chamber protected by indestructible laser beams). But the record doesn’t play on the parenthetical, the melodramatic or on the obvious, instead making you relax and think simultaneously. Living Space is a collection of five tracks that coax dynamic wonderment. It’s mystery is its majesty. With each benevolently ascending modulation the listener may be imagining themselves either suspended or rotating ever-so sluggishly into the abyss, into oblivion.

Eleh’s work, especially here, is progressive ambient sans any hard borders. This would serve well to watch cloud formations by, drift off into a sublime sleep concert, or simply open to the chimera in your immediate surroundings.

The Sound Projector (UK):

Living Space (TOUCH TO:114) is the excellent new record from Eleh, the mysterious London electronic musician who works very hard to maintain his low profile and generally won’t be drawn out about his work. We can only applaud this attitude, and I find that in the majority of cases I warm to creators who eschew the limelight and shrink from attention-seeking.

We heard from Eleh in 2010 with the very fine Location Momentum record, his second for Touch (this is his third), and noted then as we do now that the majority of his output can be found on Important Records in the USA, often in print runs of about 200 copies or so, and usually available by mail order only. Eleh could well be the kind of entity that inspires a devoted following, much like that other reclusive and highly prolific creator of hermetic drone music, Organum. Living Space could be characterised as “minimal analogue drone” for sure, but there are a number of nuances and special aspects that one must be attentive towards.

One of these, and it ought to impact you as soon as you play the record at appropriate volumes, is the judicious use of bass tones, These will produce physical reactions in your body that you won’t regret; sound as a physical force, which seems to be doing more than just entering through your ears. There’s also the interest in occupying the dimensions of the room where the record is played back, something Eleh seems to do with such focus and determination that it’s almost scary; it’s not an invasive force, but it’s certainly not taking no for an answer. I’ve never seen a live Eleh performance, but I would hope he could fill any given venue with his benign tones which, in no time at all, appear to have volume, shape, and weight. I read in the press release that there are also claims made for “healing music” and “the effect of stopping time”, both of which are plausible at some level; less convinced me by the notion of “applying your own emotions to the music”, which is something you could say about virtually all music; but it does reflect on the “blank canvas” dimension of this Eleh record, which apparently is not unintentional.

There will be a vinyl edition of this release, but the label say they’re only producing it to cater to the fetishists; the CD edition is how Eleh prefers to present it. Superb package, and probably not cheap to produce; good quality cardstock, six panels, the interiors used to present Jon Wozencroft’s colour photographs of water. Very good. From 20th September 2019. [Ed Pinsent]

The Wire (UK):

Blow Up (Italy):

Impatto Sonoro (Italy):

Questo è il terzo album per Touch da parte di Eleh. Ci sono voluti sette lunghi anni per produrre questa uscita che possiede, oltre all’enfasi minimalista, una controparte visiva che si confa al sound altamente impressionista. Sembra difatti impossibile che l’ispirazione per “Living Space” sia proprio John Coltrane. “Living Space” è costituito da cinque composizioni che cercano di esprimere la bellezza della trasformazione lenta, non soltanto gli slittamenti microtonali, ma modificando proprio l’atmosfera, la forma, le condizioni con cui la musica interagisce nello spazio d’ascolto (che sia una camera, o una sala da concerto, ogni situazione è unica).

Come noto, si trova spesso uno iato tra i meccanismi di composizione e quelli di ascolto che normalmente possono essere considerati “sinottici”, piuttosto li troviamo sempre come opposizione: se l’ambizione del disco è di riflettere i cicli di crescita personali e collettivi, in fase di ascolto il tempo si ferma, senza ciclicità o dinamica compositiva. Le progressioni armoniche e melodiche sono implicate per poter applicare le emozioni dell’ascoltatore.

Usando modulari e sintetizzatori analogici, pianoforte, organo, basso e campane sinfoniche per seguire le lenti trasformazione e specchiarsi con le condizioni di vita delle piante, e le formazioni della foglia. In sostanza, come per il racconto di Borges, Memoria di Funes, sembra che Eleh abbia voluto seguire questo quasi-movimento costituito da una così alta pletora di dettagli, da sembrare statico. Anzi, per meglio dire e-statico, stando al di fuori di un fenomeno pur rimanendone all’interno.

Alchimia sonora, la definiscono alcuni, ma qui siamo oltre la magia, ed entriamo nella zona della memoria, quella in grado di contrastare la coscienza o di costituirla a tal punto da mettere esperienza e memoria sullo stesso piano, senza distinzioni. []

Silence & Sound (France):

On ne sait rien de l’artiste ELEH, qui n’a jamais divulgué d’information à son propos. La seule chose qu’il nous offre, est sa musique. Et quelle musique ! Faite d’infra-basses et d’ondes enrobantes, d’électricité statique et d’espace magnétique.

Living Space est une oeuvre immersive. Un objet fascinant qui accapare nos sens pour les attirer vers des profondeurs froides et obscures, chargées de vibrations contraires aux attractions inversées.

Les synthés modulaires vibrent sur des cordes tendues au dessus de précipices sans fond, reflets d’univers aux mouvements internes stabilisés.

Le temps semble s’éteindre pour laisser la place au défilement de gouttes quantiques, prises dans des maillons nucléaires à l’ADN hacké. Un album aux équilibres éphémères. Superbe. [Roland Torres]

Ambientblog (net):

Eleh‘s discography boasts no less than 32 albums since 2006 – solo works as well as collaborations with artists like Pauline Oliveros, Ellen Fullman, Christina Kubisch, Caterina Barbieri and Richard Chartier. And until now he managed to remain completely anonymous: no one (well almost no one) knows who he is.

Living Space is the third Eleh release for the Touch label. It’s a perfect title: the sound of these tracks seems to come from everywhere but the speakers. It moves inside your head and moves around in the room it is played in, thus making the space come alive.

It is released on CD, which is the format ‘how the artist wants it to sound’, but nevertheless Touch promises a vinyl edition”for fetishists” to follow in the new year. Let’s hope ‘the artist’ is OK with that, because I’m afraid the extreme low frequencies in this music probably won’t behave very well on vinyl. This music is, indeed, created for optimal reproduction via digital media.

Apart from one shorter track, all tracks are from 10 to 15 minutes in length. Eleh uses modular and analogue synthesizers, piano, organ, bass, and symphonic chimes to create his compositions.
Music that “seeks to express the beauty of slow change, not only through the microtonal shifts in sound that Eleh navigates but moving with the atmospheric and shape-shifting conditions that the music creates as it interacts with the listening space, whether bedroom or concert hall, each one of them unique.”

I would call this ‘minimalist drone music’, but that ‘minimalist’ only refers to the musical aspect, not the sound itself. With all those different frequencies bouncing around before they reach you, we might as well call it ‘maximalist’. Trying to describe music can be só confusing…

The CD-release comes in a 6-panel digifile with beautiful photography by Jon Wozencraft [sic].

Electronic Sound (UK):

Dark Entries (Belgium):

Drone maar dan heel minimaal en eigenlijk té minimaal om me lang te kunnen boeien. Dit album bevat 5 composities (60 minuten speelduur) en begint met de bijna een kwartier durende titeltrack. Minimale drone dus met subtiele veranderingen. Je moet wat geduld hebben. Tegen de vierde track (“Overt Too”, weer een kwartier en meer van hetzelfde) begin ik mezelf wat te beklagen dat ik deze promo heb meegenomen want wat schrijf je over zoiets buiten dat het als monotone, minimale drone klinkt met veel gezoem en erg traag variërende tonen? Er gebeurt hier toch echt te weinig om me een uur geboeid te kunnen houden. Ik maak in mijn hoofd een korte recensie en twijfel tussen de review posten en het album een quotering van 6 geven of anders het album meenemen naar volgende Dark Entries vergadering en het doorschuiven naar een andere recensent.

Eleh is een Brits elektronisch project dat in 1999 werd opgericht met als doel de exploratie van minimale analoge synthesizers. In 2010 schreef collega Jan Denolet een review over het album “Location Momentum” van Eleh. Dit album verscheen in 2010 op het Touch label en was de opvolger van “Slow Fade For Hard Sync” dat een jaar eerder (2009 voor wie kan tellen) bij hetzelfde label verscheen. Hij scheen dit erg te kunnen appreciëren getuige de lang niet misse quotering van zowaar een 8. Maar spijtig genoeg schrijft deze collega momenteel geen reviews meer en hetzelfde geldt voor collega Peter De Koning. Wat nu gedaan? Proberen dit derde album voor Touch in collega Dimi Brands zijn nek te duwen? Tenslotte bespreekt die wel meer muziekjes op de rand van het onbeluisterbare en bevat dit geen doedelzakken.

Maar intussen zijn we bij de laatste track aangekomen: “Lighter Touch”. Weer een kwartier. Maar hier verandert gaandeweg de aard en de geest en het ganse karakter van de muziek (nou ja, ‘muziek’?, zeg liever soundscape) tot een beklemmende en behoorlijk creepy dark ambient luisterervaring. Minimaal is het nog steeds maar de toevoeging van een soort akelig spooky ritmische geluiden sleurt me helemaal mee en laat me deze keer niet meer los. De artiest werkte bewust naar deze apotheose toe, zo lijkt het wel. Maar ik moest wel wat geduld oefenen. Omwille van deze sinistere laatste track, verhoog ik prompt mijn score van 6 naar 7 en besluit ik om de review toch zelf te schrijven alsook deze laatste track in de playlist op te nemen van mijn radioprogramma The Horny Hour (op Radio Centraal, Antwerpen).

Het schijfje zit vervat in een 6 panel digipack met intrigerende waterfotografie en op een van de panels staat een citaat afgedrukt van jazzsaxofonist John Coltrane (1926-1967): ‘Music is an instrument. It can create the initial thought patterns that can change the thinking of people’.

Het gaat hier over geluid als helende kracht. Daarvoor werd gebruik gemaakt van modulaire en analoge synthesizers, piano, orgel, bass en klokkenspel (niet dat je ook maar een instrument in de zwaar vervormde drones kunt herkennen). Ze moeten de schoonheid van trage verandering tot expressie laten komen, subtiele veranderingen door de microtone shift in het geluid. Spijtig genoeg bloeit heel dit concept naar mijn ervaring pas in de laatste track helemaal open.

Revue et Corrrigé (France):