This music doesn’t like you. This music doesn’t want to be your jam, your go-to song, your dedication to the one you love. It isn’t “personal,” this music, the way so much other music pretends to be. But just because there’s nothing too personal going on here, it doesn’t mean that this music isn’t paying any attention to you. On the contrary. This music is looking at you. Staring, even. In the same way that a surveillance camera “films” things. It’s on. And it stays on. And if it captures your image, well, that’s your fault, isn’t it?
Yet without you, it’s nothing.
You can always ignore this music. Tune out. Drift. And you will. If your mind doesn’t drift while the map of this music unfolds itself over you, then you might need someone to talk to, a specialist.
But if you do choose to listen, if you give up resisting and succumb to the pulse and throb of this music, if you let yourself get sucked beneath its surface to its sunless psycho-geographies, you will be changed by it. Endless overtones and microtones will become the air you breathe. Shimmering squalls of snow-static will kick up around you, singe your face, and then fade. Thrumming rotary blade sounds (which I mistook my first time listening for purring cats) will swing through your skull, pulling your eyes around in circular patterns. Gigantic planetary gongs will ring and radiate and push against the confines of your dome until they break it open. There is another world, this music is saying. And, as it turns out, it’s inside you.
Despite the “drone” tag one could dismissively misapply, there’s nothing boring here. LINELEH I and LINELEH II, the epic new collaborations by the sound artists/musicians Eleh and Richard Chartier serve as an intense, immersive interrogation of the term “music.” It’s not easy listening. It’s menacing. Maddening. It is also, to these ears, music of a most august, otherworldly presence. And it will make you disappear from it at times if only to catch your breath before you resubmit to it. It surrounds you and occupies you like a weather condition or a fever dream, once you enter it. At times during the over three-hour, meet-your-maker totality of it, when you need to turn away from it just to remember who you are, it can seem like it’s followed you and is suddenly emanating from the walls, the floor, a coffee cup, anything other than your sound system of choice. If you let it – and that’s the thing, you have to come to terms with this music, you have to negotiate a place and a time for it – it will lay down what feels like a molten rod through your head like a kind of electrified clothesline, and you will become like a spectral sheet pinned to it, left to undulate alone in the surrounding darkness.
And while they’re busily unplugging and rewiring your consciousness, Eleh and Chartier also seem to be examining the function of expectation that’s built into a consumer culture’s ideas about what music is and should be. The manufactured, customary “pleasures” of the agreed-upon song structure are starkly absent from LINELEH I/II. And that’s a good thing. While this music comes from a tradition of drone and minimalism – Éliane Radigue’s three-hour masterpiece Trilogie de la Mort comes immediately to mind – it also serves to my thinking as an extension of that tradition. Where Trilogie has a religious/spiritual narrative of sorts that accompanies it, LINELEH I/II seems shorn of any such attachments, and seeks to create a materialized sound-universe unto itself.
Listening to it is like having an emissary from another world in your house for a few hours. This is a very important guest. Maybe someone you don’t even like that much. But you let them in because this particular someone isn’t like anyone else. This is someone it’s worth going out of your way for. Someone that leaves you with a lot to think about.
So, if you know Eleh or Richard Chartier’s work even slightly, then you know what to do. Seek this out. Then, clear your schedule, take your protein pills, and put your helmet on. There’ll be no escaping it once you let it in.