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Caterina Barbieri/ELEH
Split Russell Cuzner , September 6th, 2018 09:54

Don’t just do something, sit there! New pieces from Caterina Barbieri and ELEH expand your mind, find strength in staticity

Modern electronic compositions are often said to take the listener on a journey. The idea of an inscape, a place formed of our inner thoughts and experiences, provides a new world in which to articulate synthesizers’ command of the psyche, where we soar and somersault, float and fall, under their sensational steerage. But what would it feel like if such music could somehow moor our listening minds and let us take in the view? Important Records’ latest release might do just that, as synthesists Caterina Barbieri and ELEH take a side each over which to stretch their explorations in sonic consciousness.

In contrast to the elaborate sequences on Barbieri’s debut album last year, which took the listener sailing through oceans of arpeggiated fractals, ‘Bestie Infinite’ is anchored. Pure synth tones form a dark, surging sea illuminated by a tolling piano. Gradually, the mix loses and regains consonance as suspended electronic waves, subtly filtered, flow under microtonal variances of a sparkling staccato to add to the sense of motion. But it is movement without travel, a rare respite from forward motion, a ticket to behold a single, meticulously constructed chord from within. This is no drone, however - a spiritual theme emerges from the eddying currents, somehow meditative yet keenly aware of the here and now.

Like much of ELEH’s work ‘Wear Patterns’ could be referred to as a drone, and yet, not for the first time, the monotone implied by the term would be counter to the detail found within. ELEH’s experiments with long-form electronic emanations has led to an occultish form of composition – hidden knowledge of the sounds-within-sounds conjures mesmeric sonic artefacts from choice frequencies, invoking dances in the space between. For this release, ELEH sculpts the harmonics of a deceptively simple, reedy chord to produce a variety of radiating pulsations. They render the listener static, becoming desensitised to the passing of time like the audio equivalent of a floatation tank. But, the sound pool also has a melodic quality at times that, although not as traceable as on Barbieri’s piece, mysteriously hints at a devotional dimension.

Being able to behave beyond the laws of the physical world has meant it is not in electronic music’s nature to stop moving and, after all, music’s temporality will always mean audiences are destined to go from A to B. But both ‘Bestie Infinite’ and ‘Wear Patterns’ mindfully avoid the linear journey, bearing a kind of subtle inertia that renders stillness in the listener, as if floating in space but orbited instead of orbiting.