MYSTERY SEA 39 | asher | [the depths, the colors, the objects & the silence]


click to enlarge front click to enlarge back


- " ...this heavy air of unmoving clouds, the blue of the sky stained with transparent white. the office boy, at the back of the office, suspends for a moment the cord going round the eternal package...
'how [...] it is,' he statistically comments.
a cold silence. the sounds from the street as if cut by a knife.
a cosmic supension of breathing was felt, like a generalized uneasiness.
the entire universe had stop dead. moments, moments, moments...
the darkness blackened itself with silence. suddenly, live steel, (...)
how human the metallic peal of the trams !
how happy the landscape of rain hitting the street resurrected from the abyss !... "

- Fernando Pessoa
, 'The Book Of Disquietude' (1982)


asher thal-nir resides in Somerville, Massachusetts... in recent years, he has emerged as one of the most interesting & singular sound artist, shaping aural microlandscapes of a new nature...
His works are based on recordings of acoustic & electronic instruments, manipulated location & found recordings... He already saw a lot of his sound miniature studies published on various well known netlabels (12k/Term, Laboratoire Moderne, Con-V...) and had some CD-Rs out on Con-V & Leeraum... he is also about to launch his own label named SOURDINE...

asher thal-nir feeds his music with the everyday sounds as a root for emotional stimulus... it uncoils nonchalantly in long eroded tapes of granular texture & uneven surfaces, dust varnished ribbons...
the emphasis lays often on scratches & tears put to the fore, tending to draw an extremely minimal rhythmic structure, mirror of a frailty & language of invisibility...
On "the depths, the colors, the objects and the silence", asher embraces an hazy ocean of memory, tracing a path beyond obliteration...
Things are perceived through a numb veil, carrying the residues of a former superficial life, trying to connect with an evanescent world, an inner frame...
This is a sort of reverse microcosm...
For this shift in meaning, abandon all preconceptions & thoughts of usual grasp... you'll then be able to "rewrite" the book, and feel differently...


01. partly framed in sunlight
02. the blue gently linked
03. plastic dusk




VITAL WEEKLY 582|Frans De Waard
It's been quiet for a while for Asher Thal-nir from Somerville, Massachusetts, who has produced an interesting string of recordings, mainly for netlabels and CDR labels such as Con-V, Leerraum, Earlabs and Term. Here he returns with three long pieces that are totally like the Asher we know, and not very much alike the recent releases on Mystery Sea. It fits however well on that label. Asher takes field recordings of every day life, maybe even as simply as hanging a microphone out the window and picking up the sound, feeding it directly into his computer, feeding it through his filters and cooking up an austere, hermetically closed mass of sound. Microsound in optima forma. It's hissy, scratchy and blurry - and while those three terms may have negative connotations, there are all to be seen in a positive manner. It may not sound hip and fresh, as Asher's music stays firmly in the well fitted areas of microsound (with strong nod to the work of William Basinski), but the three pieces capture a great ambient mood. Thoroughly digital, which may sets itself apart from some of the more sub aquatic releases on Mystery Sea, it all makes perfect sense to make this a release on this by now well respected ambient label.
vital weekly

EARLABS|Larry Johnson  
Doing so much with so very little is a signature of Asher’s Spartan-like minimalism in sound art, and his poetic approach to sound composition is reflected in the titles of the three tracks on The Depths, The Colors, The Objects & The Silence which could be metaphors for the passing of a day: “Partly Framed in Sunlight” - early morning, “The Blue Gently Linked” - midday, and “Plastic Dusk” - early evening. Listening to The Depths, The Colors, The Objects & The Silence was an unexpected tangent to the more typical Mystery Sea release of deep “night-ocean drones” that submerge you in sound. The sounds here are subtle, minimal, discreet, grainy, incidental, and dense and their effects will be more personal.
Beyond a persistent, static layer of vinyl crackle and droning machine hum, the three tracks found on The Depths, The Colors, The Objects & The Silence are composed of layers of intentional field recordings, accidental secondary sounds, segments of gentle musicality, and (possibly) samples from Asher's own works. Even though the individual pieces reveal different sounds, there is enough similarity between tracks to bring a strong sense continuity to the album.
There are two things that are especially important to fully appreciating Asher’s compositions - inspiration and emotion. In a recent interview with Rare Frequency , Asher remarked that “I try to mostly find inspiration in the incidental sounds and events around me, whether they are musical or environmental;” and in an earlier EARLabs interview he commented that “Sound carries very strong emotional attachment and affects people very powerfully, I try to create work which is meaningful and communicates something.”
On this album, it’s the incidental/mundane sounds that seem to have a special significance - sirens, traffic sounds, dogs barking, children playing, voices. One of Asher’s compositional techniques is to take his electronically derived sounds and play them over a speaker in his studio while simultaneously recording them with a microphone. In this way, all kinds of secondary sounds from inside the building or outside his window are accidentally captured and become an intrinsic part of the recording. I’ve achieved a similar effect in the past by playing one of Asher’s compositions over my media player’s speakers with windows wide open collecting all of the environmental sounds from outside. The sounds often coalesce so well that you soon find that it’s difficult to distinguish between the sounds inherent to the recording from those that are external.


BAGATELLEN|Brian Olewnick  
I’ve written about Asher Thal-nir’s music several times over the last couple of years, with some enthusiasm, but his remains a name I don’t hear pop up with much regularity on the new music scene. What’s a critic to do? Well, I guess just to keep pounding home the notion that he’s someone to listen to, an artist who consistently creates enjoyable, stimulating and probing work.
His most recent (issued in a batch of 100 to take advantage of the undoubted groundswell of support this review will occasion) might be my favorite work of his to date. Three longish pieces, each drawing on a similar mode of construction but each of a subtly different hue. As near as I can tell, the underlying sounds here derive from field recordings though I get the impression that physical markings and disturbances on the tape itself also play a part. Superficially almost featureless, they in fact contain all the hundreds of details you’d find on a “blank” wall, or simply on a recording of a quiet, semi-urban backyard. Whatever their origin, they seem to have been chosen carefully (or carefully uncarefully) to transmit a granular calm, relatively untroubled but with an anticipatory edge lurking just below the surface. Voices and traffic noises peek through here and there though generally one is only aware of a kind of background hum, the low buzz of the modern environment. Over and through these tapes, Asher layers vaporous washes of semi-tonal electronic sound of long duration, pulsing very slowly. On the last track, it seems he’s only adding a faint bell, which is exactly enough. The pieces unspool in no hurry, filling the temporal interstices like a gas.

Lovely, contemplative work, even better than looking and listening out your back window.

Asher delves into the underbelly of experimental sounds producing three heavily textured pieces of music. They straddle the divide between found-sound soundscaping and field-recordings. Very little happens over the course of the album, tones and voices come and go, yet it is massively dense. Asher's is the music of the butterfly collector. The world becomes the butterfly pinned to the board, scrutinized and examined to the accompaniment of the fluttering of it's wings. It's a hard and long listening experience with little let up in the crushing bleakness of the atmosphere's created and indeed it is hard to find reasons to recommend it to you on musical terms but, there is a compulsion to it that keeps me listening. Whether that compulsion is based on curiosity or enjoyment I've yet to decide.
wonderful wooden reasons

I always wondered how many people really possess the inner ability to become connected to the sounds that accompany their existence, up to the point of stopping in their tracks to attribute a value to each one of them, since everything that ears receive stamps some significance in our memory. Asher's music speaks to those very reminiscences, teaching us how to become aware of the world around us without being forced to keep note of things that happen. Printed in a 100-copy limited edition, this album contains three long tracks whose intimacy is oddly in contrast with the basic sources used, which mostly comprise urban environmental backgrounds that include voices from the road, passing cars, police sirens and distant calls. The whole is shrouded by the composer's trademark veil of hiss and digital dirtiness which, together with weak emissions between synthesis and shortwave, parallels the scene to an autumnal day observed from within the shop we hastily entered because we were surprised by the rain. On paper, one would figure these desolated ambiences as generating a sense of oppression, or at least communicating some measure of dejection; instead, Asher's soundscapes are capable of lifting some of the weight off our shoulders, all the while sweeping aside any residual consideration about aesthetical necessities. This music is not made of nail-biting apprehension, but transmits a few unequivocal messages that highlight short-haul flights to different kinds of enlightenment. Still, we manage to soil ourselves over the course of life, surrendering to a tangible indifference for something that one day we'll regret not to have considered more attentively.
touching extremes

TOKAFI |Tobias Fischer  
There are moments when you suddenly realize the overwhelming beauty and a wonderful sense of organization and necessity in a world otherwise perceived as chaotic, tumultuous and generally unfriendly. It can happen in a supermarket, in the heat of the Grand Canyon at noon, while drinking your morning cup of coffee or while watching a soccer game in a packed stadium. On “the depths, the colors, the objects & the silence”, it happens when you open your window to the noises outside, to the holler on the streets in the heart of the city.
This not only mirrors a general development within the experimental electronic community of incorporating the sounds around us in a concrete and recognizable way instead of alluding to them with musical metaphors. It is also a recognizable tendency of the work of Asher Thal-Nir over the last couple of releases. More and more, his music is leaving the realms of abstraction and turning towards concretion, palpability and recognition. On “Graceful Degradation”, old tape recordings of Asher playing a worn-out piano sent sensitive postcards from the past and “Invisible Landscapes” harked back to melody and harmony. With “the depths...”, an album which sits comfortably between its two predecessors, only harmony has survived and entered a relationship with urban field recordings of people walking, muffled voices, cars driving by and aeroplanes hovering in the distance. Thal-Nir builds all of his tracks using these raw noises as a basis, adding a single element only per piece and gradually increasing the viscosity, sometimes lingering in the same sensation for more than twenty minutes. It is not structural development that guides his gaze, but occurrences, the will of the moment. On “partly framed in sunlight” and “the blue gently linked”, this creative spark will manifests itself in fleetingly shimmering harmonics, fibrosive chords hanging in the air like the scent of a sweet perfume or the smell of flowers. On “plastic dusk”, then, all that remains is a faint beacon, a warm hum that is as comforting as a lullaby or a hot water bottle.
As with previous efforts, “the depths, the colors, the objects & the silence” feeds from the strict adherence to a sole principle, from the idea that all of these scenes are actual and real, because they are subject to the same catalyst. Its real charm, however, stems from the way that Asher crafts the tracks, drawing the listener’s attention to hidden links and connected cycles between the constituent elements of his field recordings by the mere addition of a brush stroke. In his world, the streets are singing softly – in yours, too, if you open the windows and allow the city into your heart.

AQUARIUS new arrivals #276
Another gorgeously subdued missive from one of our favorite cd-r labels, Mystery Sea. Each release somehow fits into the label's focus on "night-ocean drones" whether literally, sonically, conceptually or spiritually. And every disc impeccably designed and packaged, the artwork as much a part of the art as the music inside.
This installment (one of two on this week's list) comes from the East Coast, Massachusetts to be exact, from a one man band known only as Asher. One of the better-known artists to release a record on Mystery Sea, Asher, focuses on field recordings, processed and manipulated into fantastic minimal microlandscapes of sound, creating textures and melodies, spreading found sounds and bits of generated music into long-form, slow-moving near static drones. But closer examination reveals all sorts of subtle rhythms, and constantly changing tonal colors, deep swells and distant shimmers, keening slivers of amp skree, but smeared into glistens rather than glares, the sounds of people and things, barely visible through the glorious blurry fuzz. Really quite lovely. Very close listening is definitely required, but the listener will be suitably rewarded by a beautiful and haunting otherworld of sound.

Rated : 3 stars out of 5
Asher’s The Depths, the Colours, the objects & the silence stands as one of the more stripped-down and eerier releases of the often already minimalist ambient label Mystery Sea. The three tracks here are built around edgy field recordings, slow haunted harmonic synth unfold and a real feeling of disquiet and abandonment.
This really is ambient in its true quiet form and needs to be played in a quite and noise-less environment. The three twenty minute tracks develop at an organic snail pace, often the melodic haunted harmonic elements not appearing until a good few minutes into the tracks. The real focus here are the crackling, rustling and settling field recordings which could be anything from fire sounds, wind, rain or traffic noise that are built into repetitive, sometime rhythmic and often dense yet quiet sonicscapes. There’s also use of muffled dialog and other  off in the distant sounds that you have to strain to make out. Feeling at times like a more striped down version of some Hoor-Paar-Kraat sound collage work, this is ambient music/ sound craft that needs real commitment and time to understand what’s trying to be done here - this is certainly not back ground music.
An album that grows more rewarding with time as you uncovering more sound detail and atmospheric sonic detail, giving the listener the feeling of been an intrepid audio explore in an eerier, strange out of focus world.

musique machine

THE WIRE #286 - Outer Limits|Jim Haynes  
For Massachusetts artist Asher Thal-Nir, the field recordings is less of a documentary process and more of a subjective device capable of retaining any number of emotional cues or poetic allusions. Here, he manifests a grey din of amplified dust and static through commonplace sounds of wintry drizzle, urban street sounds and foghorns. His soft-focused recordings mirror the patina from old photographs, alluding to forgotten or unknowable memories. Through the gossamer haze, subtle details of his recorded landscape emerge : a muffled voice on the street below or a motorcycle speeding away. Even when set in gentle motion through a twin note flutter of quiet tonalities, the hushed noise of Asher's audio patina is the constant element of the album, a vaguely familiar, vaguely foreign agent reaching for a sentiment of antiquity.
The Wire

e/i installment #15 - December 07 | Alan Lockett  
With this trio of recordings, Belgian experimental ambient/drone label Mystery Sea have now reached the fortieth installment of their now six-year lifespan. Each limited edition CDR release comes decked out with full color matching artwork themed with its musical content. In fact two of these three tie themselves in explicitly with not just visuals but with the wider theme of a mystery sea. First up, though, the one that got away: The Depths, the Colors, the Objects and the Silence is more brimful of Asher than the expected “night ocean drones” trailed by the MS website banner. Asher Thal-Nir’s materials are no more nor less "dark” than those of his roster-mates, but rather more austere, dried up, less of an indulgent audio-bath; not so much lo-fi as no-fi, and barely musical, like some fly-on-the-wall environmental audio-documentary with sparse traces of post-production authoring. To illustrate, a signature Asher technique involves him playing his own electronically-generated sounds quietly over a speaker while simultaneously recording the ambient whole with a dangled mike. The ensuing soundscape comes out scrawled over with all manner of peripheralia from the room (ambient hum and tape hiss), the building (fleeting voices), the street (sirens, traffic sounds) and the sky (passing jet engines). Filtered and laptop-scrunched, 90 percent of these hermetic swathes’ content could be described in terms of a high end of grainy static that goes ‘hiss-buzz-crackle’ and a low end of liminal crawl motion that goes ‘hum-drone-rumble’. But frequency highs and lows are not salient to Asher’s enquiry, with all being reduced to a nondescript middle, laying down a prickly blanket of remote isolationist discomfort. The three pieces capture a mood of blankness emptied out of all colour but monochrome greys and, paradoxically for an art drawn from life, drained of nearly all vitality. On “Partly framed in sunlight” and “The blue gently linked”, at least a few attenuated tones, miraculously unestranged from harmony, hang in the air; a few half-there Basinskian keyboard slivers relieving an insistent layer of enshrouding enviro-detritus and digi-dirt, but they’re as if flowers sprouting at the edge of a refuse heap. The listener could be in some existential update of Kafkaesque bleakness, in which a veil of anhedonia cuts off the protagonist from the fullness of experience. Make of it what you will, but it’s certainly thin gruel for the audiophile.

>>> back to the Reviews index